LEAD motivates Latino students

Denise Gutierrez, director of corporate and foundation relation, and Larry Arias, an independent biotech consultant, pose with Dolores Huerta, one of the keynote speakers after the Latino Education Access and Development Conference on Saturday. Huerta worked through her organization, Dolores Huerta Foundation, to publicly support poor working immigrants, and co-founded the United Farm Workers. The LEAD conference was open to everybody. / photo by Kaung Myat Tun
Denise Gutierrez, director of corporate and foundation relation, and Larry Arias, an independent biotech consultant, pose with Dolores Huerta, one of the keynote speakers after the Latino Education Access and Development Conference on Saturday. Huerta worked through her organization, Dolores Huerta Foundation, to publicly support poor working immigrants, and co-founded the United Farm Workers. The LEAD conference was open to everybody. / photo by Kaung Myat Tun

Alyssa Navarro
Staff Writer

Six hundred Latino students from surrounding school districts attended information sessions and speaker panels at the third annual Latino Access and Development Conference, where they learned about the benefits of higher education.

The Office of Civic and Community Engagement hosted the conference on Oct. 4. The goal of the LEAD Conference was to give Latino families the knowledge and resources to make college a reality.

“It was created to help the surrounding community learn about the possibilities of higher education,” special events coordinator Lucero Rojo said.

Rojo said the conference coordinators invited students from middle school through college age, with parents and educators from across Southern California.

La Verne alumna and Siouxland News Director Diana Castillo, Vice President of University Advancement Myra Garcia, social justice activist Dolores Huerta and many others spoke.

Hollywood writer, actor, producer, director and comedian Rick Najera was the featured keynote speaker.

He talked about his background living in La Mesa, California and reminisced about spending time with his Mexican neighbors.

“What I liked was his background because I know he can represent a lot of the backgrounds here,” Yelsse Bahena, junior international business major said. “The fact that he grew up in a not so pleasant neighborhood was inspiring for a lot of the students that are here.”

Najera shared the statistic that 80 percent of Americans surveyed believed that Latinos are involved in drug and gang violence.

“When you see the media, they portray us as criminals. This is why I say it’s necessary that Latinos are involved in the media,” he said.

He expressed how important it is to change what people say and think about Latinos.

“Latinos, we are the solution, not the problem.”

The next part of the program had everyone separate into several different breakout sessions. Par­ti­cipants could choose from Latinos in Enter­tainment, STEM Careers, Com­munication Career Path­ways, and Music and Radio Careers.

Each of the sessions included a panel of speakers that shared from their own life’s powerful experiences on topics such as finding a mentor, increasing scholarship awareness, financial aid and resources for making college happen.

“It was a nice reminder to be motivated again even after it being my third year in college,” Bahena said.

One of the panels focused on careers in the field of communications.

Castillo who majored in broadcast journalism was among the panelists.

She shared her own experience with getting a job after college.

“When you’re looking for internships, don’t always go to the big name networks,” Castillo said.

She said she was glad that she did her internship at an independent station in Murrieta because she was able to get hands on training in broadcast television.

She accompanied reporters on location, set up interviews and assisted the news director during each newscast.

“I was writing stories for the anchors and almost got put on air one day,” she said.

Latino Student Forum president Jackie Valencia was a part of the team at the Office of Civic and Community Engagement that put the event together.

“It’s nice to see that Latinos help Latinos out not only worldwide but locally,” Valencia said.

“The world is a competition as we’re all fighting for jobs, but within the competition there’s still unity among Latinos,” she said.

Alyssa Navarro can be reached at alyssa.navarro@laverne.edu.

Students from Mt. San Antonio College and the University of La Verne dance in the Sneaky Park after the Latino Education Access and Development Conference on Saturday. The conference provided information to high school students and parents about education opportunities in colleges and universities. / photo by Kuang Myat Tun

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