Bleary-eyed students from both Talent Search and Upward Bound boarded an early morning bus headed south to the Indiana Latino Leadership Conference hosted by Indiana University, Bloomington. The conference began with the keynote address by sociologist Carmen Henne-Ochoa who focused on her experience of the conference theme, Educación es Poder (Education is Power). Students were particularly delighted by her use of text-in-your-answer technology which allowed them to voice their opinions anonymously (and to briefly use their cell phones).
After the keynote, students and staff were able to participate in a variety of sessions focused on the Latino experience in higher education. ND TRiO Upward Bound graduate, Rebekah Amaya presented a session entitled The Educational Power of Using Your Voice, which focused on the importance of speaking up in an educational environment. She and her co-presenters provided various real-life examples and suggestions for the student attendees. This included a testimonial by one of her fellow classmates who, during the fall semester, presented a speech in class about the often caustic nature of border wall discussion and debate.
After attending two sessions, students partook of a festive taco bar at lunch. During the meal, live entertainment included Ricardo Tellez, a Latino rapper, and the excellent IU Student Mariachi Ensemble which soon had students singing and dancing.
The highlight of the day was the town hall meeting. A panel comprised of faculty members and graduate students answered questions students posed about the Latino experience in higher education. Panel members, including Luis Fuentes-Rohwer, Bernard L. Fraga, Javier Leon, and Alberto Varon, provided insight into living their Latino identity in and through their academics. They encouraged the students to study whatever interests them, even if that means being the only Latino student in a particular classroom or major.
It was a long day filled with much learning, cultural experience, and enjoyment.