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.