Latino Youth Conference includes presentation from first generation college student

Feb. 28, 2019 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Area eighth-graders will hear from a first generation college student during the Latino Youth Conference, hosted by Grand Rapids Community College on March 5.

Gabe Salazar will be the keynote speaker during the event, which runs 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in GRCC's Gerald R. Ford Fieldhouse, 111 Lyon St. NE. The conference, a community initiative hosted by GRCC's Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Center for Equity and Inclusion, also includes workshops and presentations designed to encourage West Michigan eighth-graders to continue their education beyond high school. The conference's theme is "El Poder De Soñar" (the Power of Dreams). Participants will be sent to the conference from area schools.

"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," said  B. Afeni McNeely Cobham, GRCC's chief equity and inclusion officer. "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. Historically, the Latino Youth Conference, founded by GRCC alumni, empowers young people. This year’s event will continue that legacy."

Salazar, a nationally known youth speaker, challenges teens to make positive choices through humor, skits and real-life illustrations. After overcoming obstacles of homelessness, hopelessness and gang influence, he became the first in his family to go to college. Today, he travels all over the world speaking at schools, teen conferences, and camps. He also talks to parents and adults who work with youth to help them better understand what their teen is going through in life.

The conference also includes workshops designed to help the eighth-graders turn their dreams into reality. McNeely Cobham will lead a workshop titled Yo soy Hip Hop: Centering Latinx History, Culture and Identity in a School Curriculum. Members of GRCC's Hispanic Student Organization will helm a panel session on the college experience, and the University of Michigan's Student Community of Progressive Empowerment will lead a workshop on navigating college as an undocumented student.

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.

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