THE BRONX - An advocacy group is helping whip Hispanic, college-bound Bronx kids into shape.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute hosted its first Ready to Lead Program Saturday for hundreds of ninth- and tenth-graders at Lehman College.

"It's really important to go to college," said student Junior Burgos. "That's what my parents tell me ? that they couldn't go to college, but they want me to go."

CHCI representative Reynaldo Casa agrees that the workshop is important for students like Burgos. "One in 10 Latinos have a college degree, and that's disheartening to the Latino community," Casa said.

The group believes students need to make the grade in school, complete courses that make them competitive for college and take all regents exams. According to the CHCI, once students get to college, there's more than $100 billion in financial aid available.

Figures show the average private college tuition is roughly $40,000 annually, compared to $6,000 to $15,000 for public universities.

The CHCI plans on running its Ready to Lead Program every year.