Students talk about how UnidosUS’s Escalera program has changed their lives

Beyond helping kids get ready for college and future careers, the UnidosUS Escalera program is about community, friendship, and support. Here are a few stories from students who have participated in this life-changing program.

UnidosUS Escalera

By Stephanie Presch, Content Specialist, UnidosUS

In 2001, UnidosUS (then the National Council of La Raza), created the Escalera Program: Taking Steps to Success. Through the Escalera program, high school juniors and seniors learn about the often-daunting college application process, and engage with events and activities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Escalera students are usually Latino, first generation, and from traditionally marginalized communities. The program helps these students connect with a familia of peers from similar backgrounds.

To date, Escalera has served more than 1,700 young people across 37 Affiliates in 18 states. The Escalera program is funded by UPS.

Here are a few stories from students who have participated in the program. Their words show that Escalera is all about community, friendship, and support.

UnidosUS Escalera


“Miss Liz and the Ambicion/Escalera team are there to help figure out my plan after high school and believe in me. Congreso is familia and I’m proud to be part of programs like Escalera. Being a part of Escalera has taken my friends to NASA and me to Orlando. We’ve been exposed to possibilities we could never imagine while we’re in Philly.”

— Angel Pizzaro, 12th grade, Congreso de Latinos Unidos


“I appreciate all the help with college and FAFSA applications this year. I’m not sure if I would have submitted them on my own. Having a class where everyone is learning about it together really helped.”

– Loida Roblero, AAMA Sanchez Charter School

“I live in a single father home, with a father that did not have the opportunity to keep going to school after the first grade. Escalera has helped me in having a better understanding of how college works. Also, Escalera has given me opportunities that I did not know I had. My father has not been able to guide me when it comes to education besides encouraging me to keep going, but Escalera was there to help in things that I was clueless of, and that is why I’m thankful for being in the Escalera program.”

— Jennifer Salamanca, 18, College Freshman at Middle Tennessee State University, Glencliff Escalera Alumni, Conexion Americas

UnidosUS Escalera program


“This program truly offers the necessary tools for me to be exactly who I’m supposed to be, without doubting anything. I feel comfortable sharing my perspective of things with everyone here, which is something I cannot get myself to do in a classroom.”

— Noemy Torres, 17, 11th Grade, Overton High School, Conexion Americas


“This program is wonderful for our students. Many of them start the program never stepping foot onto a college campus, and complete the program already having their first semester schedule in college made. That’s what this program is about. It’s about helping them get to the next stage making sure they have a plan for life after graduation.”

— Mr. Carrillo, Escalera Instructor

Find out more about the Escalera program here and learn more about Escalera STEM here.


Finding the power of family at home and in the classroom

Breaking the colonial shackles



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