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Latino Youth Conference returns to GRCC with motivational keynote speaker and educational workshops for area eighth graders

Photo by Carla Villasana-Acosta

Grand Rapids Community College’s 20th annual Latino Youth Conference returns from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5 at the Gerald R. Ford Fieldhouse with its returning theme “El Poder de Soñar/The Power of Dreams.”

The conference, hosted by the Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Center for Equity and Inclusion, is open for all eighth graders in area schools and encourages students to reach their educational goals beyond high school and pursue a college degree.

The center’s Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer B. Afeni McNeely Cobham explained the importance of the Latino Youth Conference for students in the hispanic community and their educational journey.

“The 2019 Latino Youth Conference will commemorate 20 years of providing young students an affirming space to be who they are young, Hispanic/Latino, and full of hope and optimism,” McNeely Cobham stated in an email to The Collegiate. “Encouraging these students to reflect on the power of their dreams is particularly important to resisting socio-political rhetoric that besieges Latino communities domestically and abroad.”

This year’s keynote speaker, Gabe Salazar, is on deck to talk to the students during the conference. Salazar is a motivational speaker who tours the country speaking to teenagers in high schools about his own experiences and what he’s had to overcome in his life to get to where he is today. He also plans on encouraging students to dream big and reach for success.

“What I want kids to realize that there’s great things, anything that you want to accomplish – it doesn’t matter where you’re from, what side of town (you’re from), what your skin color is, who your parents are or who your parents aren’t – success is for you,” Salazar said. “But success is going to look different for everybody.”

Students can look forward to several events lined up to encourage and entertain. McNeely Cobham will be presenting a workshop session titled “Yo Soy Hip Hop: Centering LatinX history, culture and identity in school curriculum.” The University of Michigan’s Student Community of Progressive Empowerment will also host a workshop titled “Navigating College as an Undocumented Student.” GRCC’s Hispanic Student Organization will be on hand throughout the conference to help students get through the conference.

Scholarships will be presented to students for different areas of studies during the conference. Students are also encouraged to sign up for the annual art contest. The winner of the art contest will have their art represented throughout the conference. The students can also look forward to workshops and a lunch.

McNeely Cobham’s hope is that students who attend the conference will be inspired about their future after leaving GRCC.

McNeely Cobham is hopeful for the students who attend the conference that they are inspired after leaving GRCC’s campus about their future.

“Historically, the Latino Youth Conference, founded by GRCC alumni, empowers young people to see themselves beyond their current situation,” McNeely Cobham stated. “This year’s event will continue that legacy. I am hopeful that early connections to GRCC students, faculty and staff will be the impetus for these young people to consider GRCC as their initial gateway to higher education.”