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Colombian-American leads Marian University’s Latino Initiative

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A Colombian-American woman is taking education to new heights at Marian University.

Manuela Salazar is leading Marian University’s Latino Initiative that is helping Hispanic students succeed.

Salazar is a proud immigrant from Colombia.

She’s a community leader who’s paving the path for many Latinas in Indiana.

Salazar says she is passionate about uplifting Hispanic families through education.

“Being able to see the students, see them graduate, achieving higher education, it really makes a difference,” Salazar said.

Salazar is Marian University’s first executive director for the Latino leadership program. Her focus is to increase access to higher education for Hispanic students, especially first generation college students.

She says it’s important to communicate in their language. “For them to feel welcome here, that this is a safe space for them and that they can ask all the questions that they have. If the parents didn’t have the opportunity to go to college, this is new for them.”

Salazar started working at Marian University in 2019 after working at the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana for three years. As the organization’s director of community engagement, she led a nationally recognized effort that supports Latina women empowerment.

“To be able to see that they are doing it in different cities in the U.S. is, like, I feel so proud I worked on that and I think that was the step I needed to get into Marian.”

“That’s where I found my passion basically just working with the Latino community.”

At the university, Salazar has hosted multiple events for Hispanic students.

Last September, hundreds of students and their families attended the Dia de la Familia event that focused on navigating college applications at no cost.

“It’s a big responsibility. You know, the Latino community is growing in the United States in general and just having the opportunity to do something intentional, this job is not just a job where you go and get paid. It’s more like a mission.”

She has some advice for Latina immigrants who want to reach their dreams. “It can be very scary to move to a different country, to learn a new language, but you have to trust yourself and leave those fears behind.”

Salazar says she’s excited about what’s to come for her students at Marian University.