Conference empowers, supports Latino/a students

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first_imgThe 6th Annual Latino Student Empowerment Conference took place this Sunday. Hosted by El Centro, Latina/o Student Assembly, American Studies & Ethnicity, Sociology, Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration and the Latino Graduate Student Association, the conference aimed to provide students at USC support for research, academic success and social justice activism. The event co-sponsored by IDEAS at USC, the Latino Student Business Association and the USC Career Center.The research presentations ranged from urban schools closing the achievement gap to the transitional experience for first generation students which were presented by current undergraduate and graduate students. The conference also included a book panel and workshops for applying for scholarships and fellowships.“The purpose of the conference is to give our undergrad and grad students an opportunity to present their research and/or do workshops,” said Billy Vela, the director for El Centro Chicano. “To empower them and empower our community so we really want to encourage social justice, critical thinking and activism on every level. We wanted to give spring admits — both undergrad and grad — a chance to get involved in the community that seemed organic and inviting.”Edwin Saucedo, of Undergraduate Student Government, was the opening keynote speaker and Wendy Carrillo, an alumna and political radio host who is running for Congress, was the closing speaker for the conference. Saucedo and Carillo spoke passionately about their experiences as USC students.“I think it was the first time I really felt out of place. I looked around the room and saw that I was the only one that looked like me,” Saucedo said. “They don’t hear about our experiences.”Andrea Diaz, a freshman majoring in economics, works at El Centro Chicano as special projects assistant. She spoke about adjusting to the support and networking opportunities she’s received through El Centro Chicano and the change in diversity.“It’s definitely different because I come from a predominantly Hispanic community, and now it’s not like that,” Diaz said. “It’s nice to find communities where you feel comfortable and empowered, but at the same time I applied [to USC] and I got in. I have to remember I worked hard, so I just have to continue to work hard even in a different environment.”Diaz encouraged other students to attend similar events.“When people don’t reach out for help and don’t come to conferences like this, they feel like they’re alone,” Diaz said. ”It’s really amazing that all these speakers are here with the sole purpose to help other students and to know that people are here to help me.” One of the groups present at the conference was IDEAS at USC, an organization founded to create a safe space for undocumented students and allies. Kimberly Alvarado, who is marketing director for IDEAS, spoke about undocumented students at USC.“I did a year at a community college [at] El Camino so the environment was very different from USC — the diversity and the culture,” Alvarado said. “Being at USC as a Latina female, I am sometimes the only minority in my class, but at conferences like this I do feel empowered.”last_img

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