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Latinx families prepare for college at LEAD conference

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Jocelyn Arceo
Arts Editor

The Latino Education Access and Development Conference is an annual forum dedicated to helping Latinx students navigate their way through higher education.

 The conference was held in the Athletics Pavilion, where Latinx families with elementary school-age children filled the tables to listen to speakers discuss the importance of going to college and what resources are available to assist in the process. 

“Parents are not aware of the amount of money that’s out there that can put their children through college,” Christopher Tan, financial aid counselor, said. “Especially minorities and first-generation students, like myself. It’s always important to host these kinds of events for financial literacy and financial awareness, to let parents know that there’s ways to pay for college.”

Keynote speaker Rick Montañez, a journalist for NBC 4 who graduated from the University of La Verne in 2006, spoke first to the crowd after being introduced by Veronica Rivas, alumna from the University of La Verne College of Law and host of the conference. 

In addition to Montañez, there was a panel of three alumni that included Carina Gonzalez, a STEM pathway peer mentor coordinator, Cindy Vallejo, assistant director of student life, and Fidel Gomez, business manager of La Verne’s Small Business Development Center. 

Montañez told his background story to the audience, how he has reported in Idaho, Colorado, Northern California and now Southern California. As soon as he stepped foot on the ULV campus, he knew this was where he belonged, he said. 

Montañez said he knew he had people at ULV fighting for him to continue chasing his dream, like Mike Laponis, professor of communications, who once had to encourage him to keep going after his dream of being a journalist after Montañez considered another field.

Rivas honored Montañez with an honor of congressional recognition from Congresswoman Grace Napolitano after his speech. 

Nancy Reyes, director of the first generation and peer mentoring program, introduced the panel of Gonzalez, Vallejo and Gomez and asked a series of questions in regards to their college journey, advice for prospective students and why they chose a four-year university over a two year. 

Much of the advice given was for parents to allow their children to grow, for students to make use of all resources available and to never give up on their education. Gomez told the audience that things may get tough, but that they will always fall into place. 

After the panel, guests were allowed to go through various workshops like financing their education, understanding the academic blueprint of schools and several career choices like business, health care and math. 

Once all sessions of the workshops were finished, the guests had a chance to explore a resource fair while lunch was served. 

Representatives for the physician assistant’s program, the financial aid office and the admissions office were all there to speak to prospective students. 

“We need to start implementing a larger variety of events like these in order to actually incorporate our values, and to help each of these students feel valid and welcome here at La Verne,” Jacqueline Sanchez, student representative for the admissions office, said. “Especially because we say that we’re very based on community and belonging, the first step to that is showing that we’re welcoming to different kinds of cultures.”

The event was only able to happen thanks to faculty, staff and students willing to commit their time, money, effort and knowledge to put it together, Juan Regalado, dean of students, said. 

“The great thing about the University of La Verne, especially, is that we are so about diversity within our programs, and the students that we select,” Hailey Helton, chair of outreach and student representative for the physician’s assistant program, said. 

Jocelyn Arceo can be reached at

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