News from Montgomery College

900 Hungerford Drive, Suite 200, Rockville, MD 20850 

Date: October 17, 2003 (03-81)
Contact: Elizabeth Homan, 240-567-7970;
Steve Simon, 240-567-7952

Hispanic Business Institute Fills Essential Community Need 

            Like many experienced chefs, Rosa Isabel Crillo of Washington, D.C., wants to open her own restaurant. Crillo, a private chef who also works for catering companies, studied at Bethesda’s L’Academie de Cuisine but lacked a solid business foundation.

           “I know how to cook,” said Crillo, from Ecuador. “I can do anything in cooking. But it’s another thing to open a business; it’s very involved. I know it’s going to be hard.”

            Crillo is right on the mark. The failure rate of new restaurants is extremely high. To increase her chances of success, Crillo signed up for entrepreneurial business training—in Spanish—through Montgomery College’s Hispanic Business Institute.

            Launched in 1999, the Hispanic Business Institute was established by Montgomery College’s Workforce Development and Continuing Education unit, together with the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. 

            In the beginning, volunteers from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce taught the courses, but the College soon realized there was a tremendous need in the Hispanic community, and began to hire adjunct professors.

            More than 400 students have taken courses through the institute since it started with one business course. Today, students can choose from 15 courses—all taught in Spanish—in business entrepreneurship, home improvement licensure, computerized accounting and the most popular business software applications, OSHA safety for construction workers, and food safety sanitation.

            Bilingual training is available both for administrative assistants and administrative legal assistants; a certificate is offered for the latter. A bilingual nursing assistant certificate program is in the works.

            The institute’s courses are offered at Montgomery College’s Westfield South Center in Wheaton and at the College’s Business and Training Center in Gaithersburg; a few are offered at the Rockville Campus.  

In 2001, the Hispanic Business Institute received an economic development achievement award from the National Association of Counties. The nationwide awards program recognizes innovative and successful county government programs.

Mover and Shaker 

            Program Director Liliana Arango, who emigrated from Uruguay in 1979, has been with the institute since its inception. She is the ultimate multitasker: “I have excellent support from [the Workforce Development and Continuing Education unit] and the instructors,” she said, “but I do everything from assisting in curriculum development and hiring instructors, to outreach to the Hispanic community. I enjoy it all,” she said. 

            This past July, Arango was named one of the nation’s 50 most influential minorities in business by the Minority Business and Professional Network. That same month, she assumed the vice presidency of the Montgomery County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. 

            Arango says the courses are based on what the Hispanic community needs. “We get people from all over including Baltimore and Virginia. This is a unique program; there’s nothing else like it anywhere.”

            It’s also a model for other county governments—both Prince George’s County and the District of Columbia have expressed interest in starting their own programs.

“A Real Sense of Community”

            “I’m proud of the fact that we have touched so many peoples’ lives, not only in improving their work opportunities, but also in mainstreaming them into our society,” said Arango. 

            “We’re creating a real sense of community here,” she continued. “In coming to college, they see that it’s a friendly place, and many continue on to take credit courses.

            “We are all immigrants; we’ve all gone through similar experiences. We all know what it is to come to a foreign country—when you see someone sitting next to you, you have so much in common.”

          For more information about the Hispanic Business Institute, call Liliana Arango at 240-567-8934; visit www.montgomerycollege.edu and click on Continuing Education; or e-mail: liliana.arango@montgomerycollege.edu.

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