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Lorain High School students learn about higher ed

By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent


Latinos and other students from Lorain High School spent an inspirational day learning about college, careers, and other possible futures, as their school hosted the 2013 United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI) Student Leadership Summit.


Lorain was just one of ten high schools across the country to receive the opportunity to host the free summit, which included motivational speakers and workshops on Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013.


Diane Conibear, Lorain H.S. principal, explained that USHLI motivational speaker Jimmy Cabrera made an appearance at the school last year, so she was seeking a similar program for students this academic year. One-third of the student body is Latino.


Ms. Conibear reached out to USHLI representatives, who happened to have one slot left for the Student Leadership Summit tour. McDonald’s restaurants co-sponsored the tour.


“We were very fortunate,” she said. “I want to make sure we provide culturally diverse programs for our students.”


Dr. Juan Andrade, USHLI president, traveled from Chicago to address the students, relating his background as a migrant farmworker and factory worker. He has earned five college degrees as an adult, after growing up as a boy of meager means.


“Even coming from a poor family, he worked so hard because he knew the value of education,” said Ms. Conibear. “That was his message: to know you can go anywhere you can in life if you achieve educational goals. Anybody can do it—doesn’t matter where you come from, what your family background is, what your socioeconomic status is. It’s about you being focused on the importance of education.”


A McDonald’s regional manager also spoke to high school students about his hard work as a young African-American which paid off with his management role today, a reinforcement of Dr. Andrade’s message.


McDonald’s restaurants awards $23 million annually in college scholarships through its Ronald McDonald Charities. In addition to ensuring Lorain students had the necessary scholarship information, USHLI helped school officials organize a college/career fair.


Many of the other presenters came from the organization CoolSpeak, a youth engagement company from Philadelphia providing speakers, programs, and events geared toward motivating middle school, high school, and college-age students.


The Lorain H.S. principal called the featured speaker, CoolSpeak president/ CEO Carlos Ojeda, Jr. “the true hero” of the summit. She stated Ojeda spoke of his own struggles in high school and how teachers told him “he would never see a diploma in his hands.”

“He was diagnosed with a severe hearing impairment at the age of 23, but spent his entire life (to that point) thinking that was just the way the world was—that he just couldn’t hear and didn’t realize that there was a problem,” said Ms. Conibear. “Until he got his SAT scores back—he scored 1100 out of 1600—that the colleges were all over him because of his SAT scores. The strong message he sent the students is that if you don’t ask questions, you’re never going to find out answers. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you don’t understand or need something.


Ojeda founded CoolSpeak to not just share his story with students, but combat the high school dropout rate that is plaguing cities across the U.S. Ojeda, still in his 30s, is considered one of the more dynamic educational speakers in the country.


“All of these people stayed after, interacted with the kids, got pictures taken with the students. It was just a really incredible experience for our kids,” said Ms. Conibear.


Ninth and tenth graders participated in sessions involving motivational speakers, which dealt with the importance of education and setting high goals. Older students received information about scholarships, financial aid, and the college application process.


Ernesto Mejia, CoolSpeak vice president, did a college presentation for juniors and seniors, emphasizing how he went from college dropout to later earn his Master’s degree in organizational leadership with a focus on higher education. The theme of the traveling summit is “Knowledge is Power.”


“It was ironic, because we had a slogan contest at Lorain High School last year and a student won a mini-iPad for a slogan reflecting the premise of student learning and creating a climate and culture of valuing education,” said Ms. Conibear. “The slogan that was picked is ‘knowledge is power.’”



The school recently received a $10,000 grant from the Lorain Endowment Fund to present each student with a T-shirt, which reads on the front “a proud member of the Titan Learning Club” and “Knowledge is Power” with a book and the Titan mascot sword and the phrase “You don’t know what I know” on the back.


The T-shirt coincides with an ongoing project called “Show What You Know Friday,” where students from different programs demonstrate their knowledge in the school auditorium during a school assembly on the final Friday of each month. This week’s presentation came from the students in the Career Technology and Fine Arts programs.


“We’ve just had some really cool things come out of this,” said Ms. Conibear. “The teachers are into it. The students are into it. So the students get up on the stage and show off what they’re learning. So the Student Leadership Summit really fit right into what we’re trying to do within the building, getting kids to think toward their post high school education, thinking about the decisions they make now, the things they’re doing now, how high school impacts their future and to be successful adults.”



Copyright © 1989 to 2013 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 12/26/13 19:21:16 -0800.




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