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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

“Soy Un Lider” conference encourages Hispanic high school students to apply to college

The “Soy un Lider” (“I am a Leader”) conference, held on Nov. 17 in Bryan Jr. Auditorium, brought together 100 Hispanic high school students from 13 local high schools in Alamance and Guilford counties. The conference educated them about the college application process and encouraged and empowered them by giving them hope that they can be successful.
The event was organized by senior Irving Zavaleta, Guilford senate vice-president and México native, with the help of first-year Mexico native Yazmin Garcia Rico and several volunteers including several Guilford students and alumni.
Like most of the students who attended the conference, Zavaleta came to the United States as a high school freshman, not speaking any English. It wasn’t until March of his senior year that going to college seemed possible, when he was educated about college and given the tools to help him in the application process.
“This is why I believe in this conference very much, because there is a lot of potential in the Latino community,” Zavaleta said. “But most of the times because of the lack of information this potential goes to waste. I almost didn’t go to college and therefore I almost lost my hope of being the first in my family to get a higher education, and I did not want this to happen to the dreams of many deserving students in my community.”

Angie Padilla, Grimsley high school senior and Venezuela native, said that the conference made students realize that they can make a difference and that, to accomplish this, education is the most important tool.

“My experience at the conference was very freaking exciting,” Padilla said, “because I finally found somebody who said ‘Yes! You can go to college!’ and after all the hard work I’ve done here, I don’t have to go back home.”

According to Rico, the main purpose of the conference was to educate Hispanic high school seniors on “how to go to college.”

“The main reason why students in the Latino community lack this knowledge is because many of the kids that came to the conference are recent immigrants to the United States, so they don’t know how the school system works,” Rico said. “Others were either raised in this country or born here but their parents don’t know a lot about the school system.”

Rafael Angel, a native of México and a Grimsley high school senior, faces financial barriers that could stand in the way of his education, as well as the disadvantage of not having a United States citizenship.
“The conference gave me a lot of hope (for) my future,” Angel said. “Even though my difference in legal status could have been a barrier, the conference gave me more opportunities and knowledge that I can take advantage of.”

Angel hopes to go to college next year and major in business.

According to Zavaleta and Rico, the highlight of the conference was the speech competition.

“Students spoke about personal struggles, their experiences as immigrants, and the oppression they face in their everyday life,” Zavaleta said.

“Many of them shared about their experience for the first time, because they were not given the opportunity elsewhere,” Rico said. “Most of the people in the auditorium were crying and feeling what the students were sharing.”

Idalia Fernandez, the Hispanic College Fund President, was featured as the key note speaker. Like these students, Fernandez immigrated to the United States and encountered financial and social barriers.

“My parents never went to college and financially it was hard,” Fernandez said. “Many students get discouraged by their legal status and financial difficulties. Just about everyone who comes to the United States faces these obstacles and it’s easy to get discouraged.”

Rico said that because some students are undocumented, they did not realize that they have the option of going to college until they attended the conference.

“The kids walked out knowing that there are ways they can go to college, regardless of their residential status or financial needs,” Rico said. “I think we gave them hope. They realize that there are ways to make it and that it is possible. Not easy, but possible.”

Fernandez said that the students will inevitably face challenges and barriers but what she hopes they learned from the conference is the important of persistence.

“If you believe college is for you, and you try your best, then that will get you through it,” Fernandez said. “Persistence is very important. Looking back, I never let the lack of money stand in the way of my dreams.”

Fernandez said that the final message that she wanted to leave the students with is that “they shouldn’t think of college as the final destination.”

“They have to think of it as a doorway to a whole new world of opportunities and choices,” she said, “and know that education is the key to getting there.”

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    Jackelin Zepeda-CortezOct 31, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    Hello my name is Jackelin and I was just wondering where I can register for “soy un lider”. I would love to come to this annual again please and thank you I would really appreciate it.