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“Reach as high as you can. Higher! Higher!”—Students were asked to raise their arms above their heads

By Alaina Buzas, Special to La Prensa


Almost 200 youth, ages 14-25 years, stood with arms raised, some even climbing on their chairs to reach as high as they could. The exercise was more than a mid-session stretch during the Lideres: Learning to Lead, Learning to Change Congreso, it was a message: sometimes, these students would need to use the resources around them to reach their goals.

Radio personality Andrew Z (92.5 Kiss FM) with 12-year-old Andrew García.


The Congreso, held Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009, at the University of Toledo Student Union, aimed to use a variety of workshops and guest speakers to focus on issues as immigration reform, education, and workforce development in order to motivate workshop attendees to have a positive impact on their communities, according to the press release.


Workshop speaker and radio personality Andrew “Z” Zepeda, of 92.5 Kiss FM, said he hopes to be a positive role model for kids he knows have some of the same struggles he did.


“It’s tough growing up in a 99.9 percent white community,” Zepeda said. “They need to know you can make it in the world and be Latino.”


For Alfredo Escalera, 16, hearing from Andrew Z was a highlight of the workshop.


“I learned you just have to keep trying, keep your head up and you can be successful,” Escalera said.


Brandon Tucker, of the Greater Toledo Urban League, shared his own story of becoming a “change agent” and encouraged everyone to remember what they learned at the workshop once they got back home.


“I want you to think about how you can go back to your communities and be a change agent,” Tucker said. “Ask, ‘How can I prove them wrong?’”


The workshop, which began at 10 a.m. and lasted until 5 p.m., featured a number of speakers and panel discussions, as well as ice breakers and a lunch.


NCLR (National Council of La Raza) partnered with its affiliates: Adelante, Inc. (Toledo), El Centro de Servicios Socials, Inc. (Lorain), and the Ohio Hispanic Coalition (Columbus), and others including: the Greater Toledo Urban League, The University of Toledo Office of Latino Initiatives, and The Latino Student Union, League of United Latin American Citizens “ LULAC” (Cincinnati), Esperanza (Cleveland)- to make this event possible.


Sonia Troche, Executive Director for Adelante, The Lation Resource Center, said she saw the workshop as a success.


“The whole experience since the time they walked in was fun and friendly.”


According to Troche, three annual workshops are held nationwide, but this was the first in Toledo. Considering the success, she hopes for another workshop to be organized next year.


“I’d like to see the organizations involved help to do something similar statewide annually,” Troche said.


During a break between workshop sessions, radio personality Andrew Z of 92.5 Kiss FM takes a picture with some of the students at the congreso.



An exercise for the brain and the body, students are encouraged to raise their hands as high as they can, some even standing on chairs to do so; reminding them sometimes you need to use the resources around you to reach their goals

Brandon Tucker of the Greater Toledo Urban League spoke after lunch at the workshop. Tucker told his story of becoming a "change agent" at a young age, inspiring students at the workshop to follow in his footsteps.


During the final round of the "Rock, Paper,Scissors" icebreaker game, Ricardo Aguilar, 12, left, is named the champion after defeating his opponents "scissors" with "rock".

The second icebreaker game at the workshop involved all attendees in a group game of "Rock, Paper, Scissors." The loser of the round would have to follow the winner, and the teams piled up.


As the Congreso comes to an end, workshop organizers make final remarks and thank their guest speakers.







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