GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Hundreds of 8th graders across West Michigan flooded the campus of Grand Rapids Community College Tuesday for this year’s Latino Youth Conference.
The conference encourages students to continue their education beyond high school. It’s part of a larger program promoted by GRCC.
The conferences theme is Unidos Avanzamos or United We Advance. GRCC’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion says the event serves a continuation of their legacy and goals to support Latino student’s educational opportunities beyond high school.
The theme changed this year from what it had been — the Power of Dream. Conference co-chairs, B. Afeni McNeely Cobham and Sonya Hernandez explain it hasn’t in years and needed to better reflect their new goals in the current political climate.
“Students of color are always asked to ream about their success and talking about united we advance. It’s not a matter of dreaming about it, we’re going to get it,” Cobham said. “We can do that collectively in our society and I think people have lost sight of that.”
More than 800 students from 24 area schools will participate in workshops, presentations and speeches aimed to encourage the Latino students to dream big, study hard and cultivate interest in attaining their educational goals.
While the students are only in 8th grade, chairs say planting the seeds early is critical.
“People pathway into post-secondary education cause they’re sitting around family members and friends who talk about their college experience. They talk about the professors who were instrumental in their lives as mentors,” Cobham said. “If we can reach these students at the 8th grade, age of 12, 13, 11 help to plant those seeds then so be it. We want to use this conference as a catalyst for that.”
Students will hear from Greisa Martinez Rosas, the executive director of United We Dream works as an advocate for immigrant students. They hope her message will further encourage students in attendance.
Co-chairs say they will follow up with each student individually soon to further explain how they can attain their dreams of furthering their education and clear up any questions they may have after the conference ends.
The conference stared at 9 a.m. Tuesday and wrapped up around 1:30 p.m. at GRCC’s Ford Fieldhouse.