Soy un Líder empowers future college students

Irving Zavaleta Jimenez ’08, Soy un Líder co-founder, assistant director for multicultural education and Latino community coordinator, speaks at the 11th annual Soy un Líder conference on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.//Photo by Fernando Jiménez/The Guilfordian

The 11th annual Soy un Líder conference was held on Saturday, Nov. 11, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Guilford College. The event helped the international community, specifically high school students and their parents, learn about the college application process.

The Soy un Líder conference was started in 2007 and is held annually at Guilford. It caters to the different needs of students by having unique workshops and speakers for high school underclassmen, upperclassmen and their families. This allows attendees to get information about higher education that is specific to their age.

Soy un Líder had many different speakers who gave students and parents advice for pursuing higher education.

“Try not to stress,” said East Carolina University representative Benjamin Blue. “We were all seniors in high school before. We don’t expect students to be perfect. I was not a perfect student in high school. If you have questions, ask.”

The conference was also encouraging for students, many of whom will be first or second generation college students.

“We want you to have the resources necessary to make your dreams come true,” said Irving Zavaleta Jimenez ’08, Soy un Líder co-founder, assistant director for multicultural education and Latino community coordinator.

N.C. Sli is a program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that provides educational, professional and civic engagement opportunities for the Latinx community in the state. During a workshop for students, N.C. Sli Executive Director Ricky Hurtado and UNC-Chapel Hill graduate student Yazmin Garcia Rico gave a presentation about their experiences as immigrants trying to get into college. They connected with students and offered personal advice.

“You are the expert of your own experience,” said Rico. “Nobody else can tell you what you are going through. You have to push through and show them what you can do.”

Soy un Líder also gave student volunteers from Guilford a chance to learn leadership and guidance skills at the conference.

“I wanted to see how to prepare high school students for college,” said H’lois Mlo, a senior and accounting major. “I wanted to see what workshops they put on for the students and the whole process of preparing the students for college.”

During Soy un Líder, students attended a college fair and learned about different scholarships and opportunities that would make college more financially accessible to them.

“I would like to tell them to apply to where they want to go,” said YWCA USA, Inc. representative Jessica Contreras. “Don’t let (their) financial situation or status affect their decision.”

The college fair, along with the various workshops at Soy un Líder, gave students a chance to ask questions about the college application process, something that they often do not get to do in their schools.

“It’s a good opportunity to know more about colleges,” said high school student Miriam Herrera. “I first heard about it from a friend who helped out with Soy un Líder, so he told me about it, and I signed up.”

Soy un Líder prepared students and parents to face the challenge of applying to college and allowed them to have a better understanding of what attending higher education would mean for their families.

“We must be brave to be who we are,” said keynote speaker Nayely Pérez-Huerta, co-director of the Southeast Immigrant Rights Network. “We must be brave to be who we want to be.”