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Hundreds attend tenth UT Latino Youth Summit

By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa

May 8, 2012: 14-year old Emilio Hernández didn’t quite know what to expect when he attended his first Latino Youth Summit Tuesday at the University of Toledo.

“Just see what happens, I guess,” he said.

But the Riverside eighth-grader readily acknowledged the message echoing in his head from family members: Stay in school!

“I haven’t really planned that out yet,” Hernández said. “Hopefully I can go to college and get a good job.”

His dream is to one day become a Marine. But he knows he has to graduate high school before that can become a reality.

“Everyone’s always on me that I need a good education,” Hernández admitted. “Finish school and all that so I can get a good job.”

But the reality his cousins are facing as high-school dropouts is what really hammers that message home. They’re modeling what can happen if he follows suit.

“They’re out on the streets, doing drugs and stuff like that,” said Hernández. “I really don’t want to be a part of that stuff. Makes me want to stay in school.”

So the Toledo Public Schools student and his Latino classmates spent the day exploring what could be instead: a possible career in engineering. TPS eighth graders explored UT’s College of Engineering, exposed to presentations on earthquakes, water sustainability, sound and vibrations and other “cool science.”

More than 500 students from across Northwest Ohio attended the tenth annual Latino Youth Summit, allowing them to experience educational and interactive workshops. The summit gives junior high and high school students much of the information they need to pursue higher education as a realistic option.

“What we want the kids to take away is the importance of higher education of some sort,” said summit chairperson Cecelia Rivera. “It doesn’t have to be college: maybe it’s a trade, maybe it’s a vocation, something. After high school, you have to continue your education. For the younger kids, it’s the importance of making the grade now so you don’t struggle later trying to find money, scholarships, things like that.”

Students also learned a first-hand lesson in overcoming obstacles from keynote speaker Roy Juárez Jr., a former homeless teen who now travels the country with a motivational message. Juarez appeared as part of his “MyBag, MyHome: Homeless by Choice Tour.” The tour website stated Juárez speaks to students with “his personal message of hope, perseverance and the importance of a higher education.”

During the summit, students met for a welcome and quick breakfast before separating into different tracks organized by grade level. Workshop tracks included introductions to the College of Pharmacy and the College of Engineering, money management, and a new track about social media. The idea was to catch their interest and excitement in a subject area and introduce them to the possibilities of a career.

“The summit is a way for us to reach students as early as seventh grade to show them yes, you can go to college, and this is how,” said Ms. Rivera, also UT’s Greek life coordinator. “Really the ultimate message is it’s possible whether you think you can or you can’t. The money is there, the scholarships are there, and there are people who want to help you.”

Rivera has been involved with the Latino Youth Summit since her senior year as a student at UT in 2003, when she first volunteered at the event. This is Ms. Rivera’s first year as the chairperson of a 15-person committee which plans the annual youth summit. Nearly 100 UT staff and students from the Latino Student Union served as volunteers for the event.

“The event’s become progressively bigger since our first year,” she said. “It has even started attracting student groups from outside Toledo Public Schools where it began. We have had groups from the Catholic schools, a few of the suburban schools, even from places like Archbold and Swanton.”

Students came from as near as Perrysburg and Washington Local and as far away as Fremont and Napoleon. Some UT Latino students from the Cleveland area even invited their siblings and cousins to come visit for the weekend and attend the youth summit.

“It was really nice of them to stick around a couple of extra days before they leave for the summer to stay and help with the summit,” said Ms. Rivera.

For the first time this year, UT partnered with the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, a national organization promoting education, civic participation and leadership development for Latinos. The institute hosts the largest Latino leadership conference in the country, which has attracted more than 6,000 participants. The institute arranged for speakers at Latino Youth Summit workshops and sponsored Juárez as the keynote speaker. The institute also included the UT summit in its Student Leadership Series.

While the event is free for Latino youth, Ms. Rivera stated the price tag of about $7,000 is partially funded by UT and the Office of Multicultural Student Success. Toledo Public Schools provides bus transportation and UT provides meals and workshops for the students.

As part of the youth summit, UT awarded ten scholarships to Latino high school seniors who attended the summit and plan to enroll at the university. The scholarship amounts to $2,000 per year for four years, as well as one year of housing at the university.

About 30 parents attended a workshop the night before the summit held at Woodward High School. The institute also provided the Parent’s Night presenter, Ernesto Mejia.

“He did a fabulous job, did the whole presentation in Spanish—because the majority of the people there were Spanish speakers,” said Ms. Rivera. “He was really basic. Normally, people give you stuff like leadership. He made it simple: when you have a child, read to your kids. Talk to your kids about school. Spend time with them away from electronics. Simple things to reach kids that anybody can do.”

The parent component provided opportunities for Latino moms and dads to be engaged in dialogue with professionals from the UT Office of Admissions, Adelante, Inc. and other community agencies. Parents get the chance to ask questions and collect business cards from other Latinos employed in schools and universities. It also serves as an opportunity to empower parents to help their children graduate from high school and encourage college attendance.


Copyright © 1989 to 2012 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05/08/12 13:43:01 -0700.





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