La Casa Cultural, Latino alumni and the admissions office are pooling their resources to try to ensure that qualified Latino high school students do not rule out Yale as a possibility for college.

A new Latino recruiting initiative based out of La Casa will organize alumni and current students to encourage Latinos in their hometowns to consider applying to Yale. The initiative will work with the already existing Student Recruitment Committee in the admissions office.

The number of Latino undergraduates has increased in the past two decades. In 1984, there were 152 Latino students in Yale College, according to the Office of Institutional Research’s “A Yale Book of Numbers, 1976-2000.” But in 1999, there were 324 Latino students. Christina Sanchez ’05, who heads the Student Recruitment Committee, estimated that recent incoming classes have been 5 to 7 percent Latino.

La Casa Director Rosalinda Garcia said the initiative came out of her discussions with Latino students. Many told her they are at Yale “out of pure coincidence” — some said their guidance counselors told them they would not get in, others said they did not consider applying until a mentor encouraged them strongly. At the same time, Garcia said, many students approached her about helping recruit other Latino students in similar situations.

Julie Gonzales ’05, a student coordinator with La Casa, said Yale “doesn’t seem to make the list” for many qualified applicants.

“There a lot of kids who never think of applying,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales said when applying to colleges, she did not originally consider Yale. She submitted her application only after her brother insisted that she should apply to an Ivy League school, she said.

La Casa staffer Ricardo Sandoval ’06, who is in charge of recruitment, said there has been a strong demand for the program from Yale’s Latino community. Sandoval said his goal for recruitment is to create by next year a system that encourages close interaction between Yale students and Latinos in their hometowns. He said over breaks he will try to send students to their high schools and other schools near their homes to discuss their experiences at Yale with prospective applicants. He would also like to have students write letters to their former high school counselors about Yale and ask that the letters be forwarded to current high schoolers, he said.

Sandoval said he hopes students will notice attention that is “not just generic” and will appreciate the personalized focus.

“[Students will get] something from someone who lived down the street,” he said.

Sanchez said La Casa’s goal for alumni is to harness the efforts of those already trying to help the school rather than to find new volunteers. Alumni already represent Yale at information sessions and meet with admitted students, Sanchez said. But over the next year, she said, La Casa hopes to formalize the involvement of these alumni by asking them to run organized events.

Sandoval said he hopes to have La Casa and the Student Recruitment Committee work more closely toward their common goal. He said he thinks La Casa can help the committee’s ten members by targeting certain areas.

“It can’t be the ten recruitment coordinators who are recruiting for all students of color throughout the United States,” Sandoval said.

Sanchez said greater diversity in Yale College is the recruiting initiative’s long-term goal, but the more immediate push will be to make Yale seem more attractive to Latino high schoolers.