Leadership conference draws Latino students

The move from high school to college is stressful for any student. For Latino students, college can seem even more out of reach.

According to reports by Excelencia in Eduction, nine percent fewer Latino students graduate college than regular students. Half the battle is information, and Guilford College hoped to help students fight that battle last weekend with the Soy Un Lider conference.

Soy Un Lider brought hundreds of Latino high school students to Guilford Nov. 7 for a day of college information and advice. The conference covered financial aid, how to pick a college and advice on filling out applications.

“I came here because I wanted to see how I could achieve my goals,” said Ledford High School senior and attendee Katya Gamez. “I really love how (the attendees) are part of this community.”

The day opened with a series of speakers, such as President Jane Fernandez and founder of The Tomorrow Fund for Hispanic Students Diane Evia-Lanevi, addressing the tired but enthusiastic crowd.

“(I want students to know) that going to college is a possibility,” said Evia-Lanevi in a later interview with The Guilfordian.

“If students work hard and they aspire to go to college, they can. The financial aspect is always the hardest part, but even if it’s looking at scholarships and digging under every rock they can for funding, there is a way.”

The struggles of finding financial aid perplex most high schoolers. For some Latino students, finding funding is even harder due to lack of documentation.

To help combat this, Soy Un Lider offered workshops specifically tailored to these financial problems.

Huddled into King Hall Room 123, Duke University and Durham Technical Community College students led a workshop on paying for school. From financial aid to scholarships and even work sponsorships, the workshop covered all the bases.

Across the way in Duke Hall, a second workshop informed students about the choices they face as they move past high school.

“It is very important for students to start planning their future because (this part of their lives) will determine what path they take,” said University of North Carolina Greensboro psychology major and speaker Yubisela Sandaval.

“It’s important for Latino students to start thinking now because there are so many scholarships out there, it’s amazing how accessible it can be if they dig a little.”

The students attending these workshops took in everything with open ears.

“It’s been a very good experience,” said Cummings High School student and conference attendee Brittany Vasquez. “I’ve really learned that it’s never too early to start planning for college.”

The experience has been good for conference organizers as well, though they have just had a little more stress.

“There have been a lot of different emotions, from stress to happiness,” said organizer and junior Gerardo Cruz Garza. “We started last semester during spring to organize the conference.

“We also did some over the summer and leading up to the conference … It’s been a little challenging … but I think the student body at Guilford has been really responsive and has been much more willing to help and work with us.”

Soy Un Lider provides the information some students need to move forward, and Guilford played a big role in helping to do so.

“I just want to thank Guilford for being so welcoming of Soy Un Lider,” said Garza. “Everyone is starting to recognize this as something Guilford has to offer.”