MILWAUKIE — La Salle Prep knows there are Hispanic students out there who would like a Catholic high school education, but think it’s out of reach. The 700-student school has launched an initiative to nix the misperception.

In addition to an annual open house and daylong visits, which require families to come to the school, La Salle is venturing out to meet Hispanic students where they live.

Staff go to 25 Catholic grade schools, but know outreach can’t stop there. Katie Allen, director of admissions, visits Boys and Girls Clubs to meet students and parents. She can offer the good news that members of the clubs are eligible for a full La Salle Prep scholarship. Allen also speaks at local charter schools and Montessori schools.

“We have academic, spiritual, ethnic, and economic diversity and it is our hope to increase that diversity,” said Allen. “It is our hope to celebrate each student’s culture, history, and identity so we can continue to grow as a school family.”

About 19 percent of students at La Salle Prep are from a minority group. About 6 percent are Hispanic. La Salle Prep has had full enrollment for a number of years, but part of the mission is to reach students who might not otherwise have a chance of entering Catholic school.

La Salle has hired Spanish-speaking staff to give presentations at the open house and out in the community. Spanish-speaking students lead tours or host prospective enrollees for a day.

Figuring that the Catholic identity is a strong draw for many Hispanics, Allen tells parents that a Catholic school like La Salle Prep invites students on a spiritual journey to learn more about Catholic values, morality, and world-wide community. All students are required to take religion classes each year. Community service is required and there is time for prayer and student retreats. Juniors take a class in Catholic moral thinking.

La Salle’s San Miguel Program offers scholarships and enhanced support to recipients, about 50 of whom are Latinos.

“What I want for my students is for them to know that I am here to help them with anything that is causing them stress, be it a difficult situation at home or something simple like not being able to open their lockers,” said Maritza Méndez, a counselor at La Salle Prep who works with Hispanic students and parents. She provides help in academic, personal and social areas. She also helps students identify possible careers and the steps it takes to get there.

Students from immigrant families may not have someone at home who can tutor them, or may need to care for younger relatives or even earn a paycheck.

“The most important thing here is to work as a team to find solutions,” said Méndez. “In order to do this it is very important that the family communicate with the counselor of their students.”

Méndez meets with small groups of students to help them plot a path to college and beyond. She knows that the last thing teens want is to stand out, but she tries to be an example of a Latino professional who has unique perspectives to offer an organization.