SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A new program at three San Diego-area community colleges is hoping to bridge the gap between minority students and their teachers.
The Deber Program at Mesa, Southwestern, and City colleges hopes to encourage more bilingual people to become teachers.
"We don't have enough people of color in the classrooms," said Laurie Lorence, Teacher Education Director at Mesa College.
The program will help recruit bilingual college students who want to become teachers. It will assist them throughout their college careers with applications, transfers, testing, and mentoring.
"We're hoping a lot of students want to give back to their community and reach down to give them a hand up," said Lorence.
Right now, there's a wide disparity between the number of minority teachers and students of color in San Diego.
According to the San Diego County Office of Education, 69% of students in local schools are students of color. But only 26.3% of teachers identify themselves as teachers of color. Bridging that gap can help minority students succeed.
"A student can look up at the teacher and say, 'Wow, if that person's done it, maybe I can too,'" said Lorence.
For Karina Vidro, one of the students already in the Deber Program, the help it provides is vital.
"I know where I want to be, but I don't know all the details in between," she said. "So knowing that someone is going to be there to support me in that direction is fantastic."
The Deber Program is funded through a five-year grant from San Diego State University. Lorence says the first few years will focus on Hispanic and LatinX students. They plan to expand to other minority groups after that.