Motlow Completion Coach Angélica Dotson uses personal experience to encourage students

Angelica Dotson uses her experiences as a Hispanic student in southern, middle Tennessee to encourage other Motlow College students. (Photo Provided)

EDUCATION | Motlow State Completion Coach Angélica Dotson knows what it is like to be treated as an outsider … to feel like you don’t fit in. She draws from and shares her experiences as a second-generation American to improve student success at Motlow. In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, she spoke about her experiences and how they help her encourage Motlow students to overcome adversity.

“I grew up in a bicultural home,” said Dotson, who works at Motlow’s Smyrna campus and has been with the college since 2013. “At times, I felt like Americans did not quite accept me because I was too Mexican, and Hispanics did not quite accept me because I was too American. I always felt as if I had to prove myself, and I do my best to use my experiences to help encourage students. You can be brown and be successful.”

Motlow’s Latino student population has almost tripled since 2015. The National Center for Education Statistics says Latino students are one of only two demographic groups that have shown an increase in college attendance in recent years. Motlow is ahead of the national growth and well-positioned to expand its minority student enrollment.

“There was a time when I dropped out of college,” continued Dotson. “I felt that I could not be my true self and be successful in passing college courses or landing a job. Dropping out was a poor decision, but it did lead me to some positive revelations.

“It was around that time that I finally realized that I could not deny being brown, Latino, a minority. Once I accepted that, it unlocked a powerful force inside of me,” she added. “I rediscovered myself and my culture. I found my voice and embraced it. Everything turned around for me as I returned to college and graduated.”

Dotson’s father is from Celaya, Guanajuato, México, and was adopted by an American family when he was three years old. Her mother is from Zacatecas, México, and grew up near the United States’ southern border and immigrated to America for survival and opportunities.

 “I find that my past experiences help encourage students, whether they are a person of color, a non-traditional student, or a traditional student coming to Motlow from high school. I understand that sometimes people expect minorities to fail, and we must work harder than others to succeed. I do my best to encourage all students who are struggling, but I especially try to remind the LatinX community that they can overcome adversity.”

“The number of Hispanic students enrolled in college rose from 3.17 million in 2016 to 3.27 million in 2017, making them only one of two demographic groups that saw an increase in college attendance, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That’s more than double the 1.4 million Latino students who attended college in 2000,” according to USA Today.

The study showed about 70 percent of Latino undergraduates in higher education come from families in the bottom half of earners, according to data analyzed by the college lobbying group, the American Council on Education. That is comparable to the black population, where nearly 75 percent of students come from the bottom half of earners.

Nearly half of Latino students are the first in their family to go to college, and just under half were eligible for federal Pell Grants, money only given to those with a high financial need. Only 22 percent of Hispanics over the age of 25 have an associate degree or higher compared to 40 percent of the general population.

Motlow actively invests in inclusion training and accessibility planning. These efforts foster a diverse student body and promote cultural literacy among all graduates. Motlow’s goal is to provide the learning opportunities and support programs needed to encourage all residents to pursue a college degree or short-term certificate that leads to high-demand jobs. Dotson’s story is evidence of the importance of academic success. There is no better time to pursue higher education. Motlow offers Reconnect Scholarships for adults without degrees, tutoring, ESL programs, learning support courses, one-on-one advising, and personal college completion coaches. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Lynchburg, Tennessee. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

Motlow’s Oscar Meza-Abarca cherishes Hispanic heritage as first-generation student

Oscar Meza-Abarca is part of a growing number of Hispanic students attending Motlow College. Since 2015, Motlow State’s Hispanic student population has almost tripled. (Photo courtesy of Motlow)

EDUCATION | Hispanic enrollment is growing nationally and Motlow State is no exception. It’s Hispanic numbers have almost triples in the past five years. In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, the college recently shared with us the story of one of it’s first generation students.

Oscar Meza-Abarca is part of a growing number of Hispanic students attending college. Since 2015, Motlow State’s Hispanic student population has almost tripled, and nationally the number of Hispanic students has more than doubled since 2000.

Oscar moved to Lincoln County from Huntsville with his family after his freshman year in high school. After graduating from Lincoln County High School in 2019, he became the first member of his family to attend college when he enrolled at Motlow’s Fayetteville campus in Fall 2019.

Now Oscar is a Dean’s List student on a path to graduate Motlow with an associate degree in mathematics in May 2021. He plans to transfer to MTSU and earn a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education in Mathematics and become a teacher. He believes his Hispanic heritage has played a significant role in his success.

“When I was growing up, I had to speak Spanish at home and English at school,” said Oscar. “My parents, who migrated to the United States in 1998, can understand a little bit of English, but they can’t speak it. I have been their translator most of my life, and that role has helped me to become a people person and a better communicator.”

As a first-generation college student, Oscar dealt with educational adversity because his parents didn’t know much about college. They couldn’t answer his questions about college. “Part of my motivation for completing my education is to be able to help my younger brother complete his,” Oscar adds.

He was born in Utah and moved with his family to the Huntsville-Madison area in 2004. His parents immigrated to the United States in 1998. Oscar recently started working as an Educational Assistant at a local elementary school, a significant step for him into the education profession. He assists with students from Pre-K to 4th grade.

“Being Hispanic is something I cherish,” Oscar continued. “The Hispanic community where I live is tiny and everyone knows each other. My time as a translator and my ability to communicate through multiple languages enable me to contribute to Hispanic and non-Hispanic communities.

“I always encourage people to go to Motlow for the first two years of college. My experience is that Motlow faculty and staff care about the future of their students and will show you the correct steps to help you achieve your education goals.” •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Lynchburg, Tennessee. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}