Speakers address importance of a college education
Latino professionals from the Blair community spoke to Latino students today about the importance of obtaining a college education and making a difference in the community in Blair's first Latino Motivational Conference.
The Conference, which was organized by the Guidance Department, Foreign Language Department and Blair Spanish teacher Cindy Villavicencio, featured 15 Latino speakers in three categories: "The value of education and Latino Participation," "The College experience and local organizations," and "The Latino Professional."
Villavicencio opened the Conference with an appeal to Latino students to recognize their potential. "You are the future," Villavicencio said to the students. "You need to know how to empower yourself and demand respect."
The Conference was held in two sessions, one during second period for sophomores, and one during fourth period for juniors. All Latino students were invited.
Raùl González, from the national Council of La Raza, a civil rights organizations for Latinos, presented several sets of statistics that illustrated the reason for the conference. According to González, while 94% of whites and 87% of blacks in America complete high school, only 65% of Latinos do so.
González also discussed the gap in college completion statistics – 28% for whites but only11% for Latinos – and the difference in average lifetime earnings that a college education can make.
Most of the addresses were made in English, although Emilio Perche Rivas, from the Spanish Speaking Community of Maryland, Inc, gave an impassioned speech in Spanish.
Annie Minguez, who works at the Department of Labor, appealed to students to seize the educational opportunity before them. "Hurry up, finish high school, go to college… put your foot in the door," said Minguez.
Minguez noted that it would not be easy to achieve this education. "I worked to get where I am," Minguez said.
Miriam Georgina Cabezas, a recent graduate from the University of Maryland, acknowledged the objections that Latino high school students often raise about college: that it is difficult to get in, that no one believes in them, that it is too expensive. However, Cabezas scorned these as "just excuses," exhorting students to find the resources they need. "There's money out there, you just need to find it," Cabezas said.
Chris Pineda, from the Congerssional Caucus Hispanic Coalition for Community Scholars, echoed Cabezas. "Seek out the resources that are available to you," Pineda said.
Villavicencio organized the Conference in order to get information to students who she thought might not otherwise get it and as an example to them. Said Villavicencio, "I felt that a lot of these kids aren't self-motivated enough to get the information on their own…. If [the speakers] can succeed, so can these kids."
Esteban Morales, Program Coordinator for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, said that with a college degree, Latinos could easily find jobs. Latinos are, said Morales, "a hot commodity."
Minguez also noted the importance of helping one's community. "You don't make a difference if you don't apply your degree," she said.
Morales said that the idea of the Conference appealed to his memories of his own education. "I remember myself getting the same input [as these students]," said Morales. "It impacted me a lot."
Minguez agreed to speak at the Conference because she wanted to make a difference for the future. "I thought it was a good opportunity to speak to the leaders of tomorrow," Minguez said.
Morales' advice to Latino students is to stand out. "Don't be ordinary, be extraordinary," he said. "Ordinary people come and go; extraordinary people last in the mind."
This is the first year that the Conference has been formally organized. Villavicencio "held it informally" last year. She hopes to make it an annual event, "if [the Administration] allow[s] me to; if it's a success," Villavicencio said.
Joe Howley. Joe Howley is a senior at Blair in the Communication Arts Program. He is Editor-in-Chief of the Online division of Chips and shares the Graphics Editorship with the infamous Brandon Proia. He is resigned to being a hopeless computer "geek," and is already an object … More »