More than 300 intermediate and high school students from Garden Grove Unified School District (GGUSD) participated in the district’s fourth annual Latinos Unidos (LU) Leadership Conference at California State University, Fullerton on Saturday.
The conference is organized by district-level Latinos Unidos student board members to provide leadership training and help students prepare for academic, personal, and lifelong success.
“This event has become a powerful training ground for the next generation of Latino leaders,” said GGUSD Board of Education trustee Teri Rocco. “The energy at the event is palpable and students arrive eager to plan for the future, make an impact in their community, and tackle important issues facing our nation.”
During the leadership conference, students attended a networking fair and exchanged business cards with area professionals, learned about community resources and Latino organizations, and were introduced to potential part-time job opportunities after high school.
A tour of the college campus was provided by students from CSUF’s Hermanos and Hermanas Undios. Additionally, students attended workshops led by Latinos Unidos alumni on topics like cultural consciousness, leadership in the 21st century, public speaking, club representation in the community, navigating the path to college, finances, budgeting, financial aid, and scholarships. The event is sponsored by the Orange County United Way, one of the district’s longtime supporters of Latinos Unidos.
Dr. Alexandro José Gradilla, associate professor of Chicana/o Studies at CSU, Fullerton provided a keynote speech, sharing his own story as a first-generation college student and his studies of Mexican origin, education policy related to Latino success, and closing the equity gap. Sergio Contreras with the Orange County United Way, Dr. Melba Castro with CSUF, and Superintendent Dr. Gabriela Mafi also presented.
The Latinos Unidos program was launched to provide a unique system of supports to GGUSD Latinos students through tutoring, mentorship, community service, college preparation and cultural events. More than 50 percent of GGUSD students are Hispanic/Latino, more than 75 percent are socioeconomically disadvantaged and more than 80 percent have a second language background.
Students are elected by their peers to serve on the district-level LU Board. The 2016 Board included Henry Ayala, President; Maria Dominguez, Vice President of Community Service; Brianna Jimenez, Vice President of Public Relations; Victor Luna, Secretary; and Jair Fabian, Treasurer. The new 2017 Board was elected and includes Maria Dominguez, President; José Zamora, Vice President of Community Service; Karina Valenzuela, Vice President of Public Relations; Luis Zamora, Secretary; Fernando Villasenor, Treasurer; and Yazmin Felipe, Historian.
With help from a club advisor, each of the district’s eight high schools has visible, active Latinos Unidos clubs. The club helps embrace and honor student’s rich cultural heritage and provide them with a framework to achieve success.
Students are planning a Latinos Unidos Cultural Night with food, activities, and performances at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, March 10 at Los Amigos High School.