TecoGuide co-founder Mauricio Gonzalez at the Sacramento Public Library GED graduation. Photo provided by @TrueLovePhoto.

A new app called TecoGuide is leveraging technology to assist non-traditional and first-generation Latino students in achieving academic success. It’s described as the only “free and open-to-the-public college navigation platform” by co-founders Maria Medrano and Mauricio Gonzalez.

The application is owned by Inspirame Inc. (meaning “inspire me” in Spanish), which develops SaaS technology for higher education to improve college retention and completion rates as ways to address the rates as growing demand for a skilled workforce. For those seeking to return to higher education, TecoGuide includes information on more than 1,000 colleges and universities throughout the nation including opportunities to earn scholarships and financial aid assistance. For users who are still in high school, the app offers tips on how to write a college essay and prepare for the SAT and ACT exams.  

TecoGuide distributes culturally relevant content to high schoolers and adults so they can explore academic disciplines and degree options. It also tracks classes a user has taken and the application performs an automatic “degree audit” to break down long-term academic goals into measurable milestones and objectives. 

TecoGuide co-founders Maria Medrano and Mauricio Gonzalez are honored speakers at the Sacramento Public Library GED graduation. Photo courtesy of @TrueLovePhoto.

“We built it in a way so as not to overwhelm users,” Medrano told CALÓ NEWS, “TecoGuide provides a pathway to education by providing real-time education plans for every person based on their needs.”

The California community college system has historically been the most financially accessible gateway for state residents to attain a higher education degree, or career technical education, and is the starting point for many adults looking to get back into higher education but also advance their careers through vocational training.

The company aspires to expand its services to all California State University schools, also known as CSU, in addition to all University of California schools, also known as UCs, which are public 4-year institutions that are located across the state of California.“Right now we have about four or five community college maps on our platform,” Medrano said. “Our goal is to get more investors so that we’re able to map all 116 community colleges, all 23 CSUs, and 10 UCs in California.” 

Inspirame Inc. launched in January 2019 and began building out the TecoGuide application in June 2020. With the help of angel investors, as well as self-funding, the product was able to go live in 2022. The application has been downloaded more than 10,000 times thus far. TecoGuide’s TikTok account has amassed more than 20,000 followers, indicating a demand and need for the services provided. Medrano and Gonzalez have said the app is a game-changer for “first-generation Latino students.” The co-founders have spoken to numerous individuals from all walks of life who have sought out ways to make the college admissions process more accessible. 

Maria Medrano speaking at theGED graduation. Photo courtesy of @TrueLovePhoto.

Medrano and Gonzalez said that they have both been lifelong education equity advocates and experts in their respective fields. The co-founders are not only business partners, but partners in real life as well, bringing a unique and balanced perspective from their own backgrounds. Gonzalez jokes that he grew up “agriculture poor” in Salinas Valley, California while Medrano grew up “city poor” in San Francisco. Medrano followed a more traditional school trajectory, excelling academically and then eventually landing in corporate DEI positions at companies including  Google and VISA, while Gonzalez spent the last several decades working directly with students as an admissions counselor at Los Rios Community College District.

Although Inspirame Inc. has primarily been focused on serving areas of Northern California, an increase in demand has led to the expansion of services. Starting in January 2024, the TecoGuide app will target community colleges in the Los Angeles area. Inspirame will continue to work towards its $500,000 fundraising goals in order to finish adding the remaining schools in California and continue to meet the demands of returning students.
If you wish to learn more about the app, visit here. TecoGuide is free for iPhone and Android users.

Michelle Zacarias is an award-winning journalist and adjunct instructor at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, where she teaches Engaging Diverse Communities. Originally from Chicago...