Giving the keynote speech for the Hispanic Heritage Month event, Nazario, 53, tapped his experience as a former director of admissions at Michigan State University and at Cleveland State University, as well as his background as a Latino who grew up in Lorain, Ohio, to get his message across.
He told students that education isn’t optional, not in the hi-tech age of the 21st Century. The tools he needed to succeed in the world aren’t the same tools they will need to succeed, and they can best sharpen those tools by absorbing as much knowledge as possible in high school.
“They can take away that car, they can take away that house, but they can never, ever take away that knowledge,” Nazario said.
His appearance defined the theme for the day, which brought Latino students from James F. Rhodes High School, John Marshall 9th Grade Academy @ Nathaniel Hawthorne and John Marshall High School to the assembly in the Lincoln-West auditorium.
The event cast a wide net on all-things Latino.
In salute to Hispanic Heritage Month, Lincoln-West students used the 90-minute assembly to showcase the history of Latin countries. From Spain to Argentina to Venezuela, they brought the native dress of countries like Puerto Rico and Honduras, and the regional dances of countries like the Dominican Republic and Cuba to the stage.
Yet the signature event of the afternoon was Nazario’s 15-minute speech, which was grounded in Americana.
“What I wanted students to take away from this is that ‘hope’ is not a strategy,” Nazario said afterward. “The strategy you have to have is a great attitude and a great support system and you will succeed no matter what you do. You must fulfill your education dream.”
“Get that degree,” he said.
His message of empowerment hit a receptive chord. Students applauded often as Nazario roamed the auditorium floor and delivered his high-energy lecture. His appearance served as a fitting close to Hispanic Heritage Month for schools in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
Jonathan Rivera, Linkage coordinator with the Closing the Achievement Gap (CTAG) program, and Robin Guerrero, a teacher at Lincoln-West, put together the all-school assembly, which they billed as the “Lincoln-West Hispanic Heritage Celebration.”
Rivera, who invited Nazario, introduced the education theme first when he told Latino students and others to ignore critics who question their ability to achieve academically.
“I say to you, ‘Forget them,’” Rivera said of the critics. “You will succeed, and you will make it in this country. But what you have to have, students, is that education; what you have to have is that self-attitude that says, ‘I don’t care what you put in front of me; I’m going to make it.’”