Original URL: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/arizona/articles/0121phx33.html

Univision, city put out word on education
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 21, 2004 12:00 AM
Mel MelÚndez

PHOENIX - Those tuning in to Univision Thursday night for their daily dose of Spanish-language news or the latest installment of their favorite telenovela (soap opera) also will get a taste of higher education thanks to 33 a Su Lado, a public-service partnership between the network and the city.

Starting about 4:30 p.m., the station, which airs on Channel 33 or cable Channel 19, will run 30-second public-service announcements listing a bilingual phone number (602) 534-2758 for information on scholarships, registration and college requirements. News segments also will highlight the city's efforts to provide bilingual assistance to those interested in attending college.

Launched in 2002, the project is the brainchild of Gerardo Higginson, senior assistant to Mayor Phil Gordon and a former Telemundo news anchor. Its goal is to disseminate information on city services and resources among the city's burgeoning Latino community. Previous 33 a Su Lado campaigns included police services, drowning prevention, domestic-violence resources and neighborhood code violations information.

"We needed to do something like this because the city has many great programs, that many people don't know about because language can be a barrier when trying to get that information out," he said. "The response has been fantastic, between 1,000 to 1,600 calls each time."

Initially, the education campaign focused on dropout prevention to help counteract the high Latino dropout rate, which is double that of White students in Arizona. But as more callers phoned seeking higher-education advice, the need to expand the campaign became obvious, said Deborah Dillon, the city's education program director.

"When ASU heard we were getting a lot of higher-ed questions, they offered to work with us," she said. "This is our second higher-ed event with ASU."

About 15 bilingual Arizona State University counselors will be on hand with bilingual employees of the city's Youth and Education Program to help man the 24-line phone bank. A 24-hour voice mail ensures that no calls are missed.

"We'll get calls months after the events, which speaks of the power of television," said Marcos Najera, Creative Director of know99 Television, the city's education channel. "The Latino community really supports this."

Still, Latinos aren't the only ones who benefit from the public-service campaign, said Marco A. Flores, news director for Univision Arizona.

"When we did the code violations campaign, we received about 200 calls from non-Latinos who don't typically tune in to Univision," Flores said. "That surprised me a bit because our target audience is Spanish speakers.

"But it's great because it's about helping as many people in the community  as you can."