A conference just for #Hispanicwomen ? In Michigan? Not Texas or California or New Mexico? Inspiring and, to my mind, wonderful!
Hispanics are a growing force in the United States. It is not surprising that universities around the country are taking an interest in their Hispanic populations. Although there is still a significant drop-out rate among Hispanics in high schools, more young people are looking beyond high school to opportunities in their future. Hispanic young men and young women have an opportunity to advance themselves in a society that for many years has denied them access to a better life.
Although racism still exists, universities and the communities that support them are, at last, reaching out to help these young people. Many universities are encouraging our Hispanic population to consider the university as an achievable goal. It’s not easy, and it’s not cheap, but it can be done, and 500 young women are doing it at Michigan State University.
Having just finished putting together our own much smaller symposium on Bernardo de Gálvez, I had the honor of being invited to speak at Dia de la Mujer #DDLM23 at Michigan State University in East Lansing. The purpose of the conference was to help inspire over 500 Hispanic women to “realize their personal and professional goals.” The organizers called for “Solidarity for Change: Using our Voice to Inspire Action.” An admirable goal and one which they met with great success.
I was thoroughly impressed with #DDLM23. Any conference that can last 23 years is to be commended. Michigan State has made this program bigger and better every year. It is a tribute to not only the Hispanic women they serve but to the coordinator, Juan Flores-Soto, and his hard-working staff and to the support of Michigan State University. They are to be commended for their efforts.
Among the strongest supporters of the conference for the last 23 years is the student group Culturas de las Razas Unidas. It is MSU’s Latino Student Organization under the umbrella of Michigan State University’s Council of Racial and Ethnic Studies. They address the needs of the Latino student community and “assist with retention and persistence” and work to “create Latino Awareness programming that creates learning opportunities for other communities.” As our Hispanic population increases, we need more of these kinds of programs at universities around the country.
The conference offered over 35 workshops. The attendees were invited to learn about a broad range of topics. Presenters provided information on STEM, Storytelling, Vision Boards, Launching a Business, Parenting, College Access, Financial habits, Sexual health, Keeping Kids in School and Out of Trouble, and Achieving Success in College. There were also programs to help young women enter careers in the legal profession, academia, political leadership and the business world.
In support of the Hispanic culture, there were also programs that focused on more traditional topics. Fascinating programs opened doors to Mexica healing traditions, Nahuatl Ceremonial Songs and Ayotzinapa Inspiration and Revolution. Of course, the most popular workshop was Magdalena Peña’s Pro Makeup 101. She had to continue her program in the lobby at the registration table because of the tremendous demand.
The Keynote Speaker at the lunch was the lovely Christine Chavez. She is the granddaughter of the well-known community leader and activist, Cesar Chavez, who spent his life fighting for civil rights and social justice for the migrant workers in California and around the country. Following in her grandfather’s footsteps, Christine, too, has become involved in the labor movement and civil rights. Her speech was both inspiring and entertaining, including many of her memories of traveling with her grandfather.
Between the workshops and panels, before and after lunch, as well as during the raffle at the end, participants could browse the many exhibitor tables that encircled the room. Funding a big conference such as this depends on finding sponsors. Juan Flores-Soto, without doubt, spent hundreds of hours recruiting and convincing MSU university groups and local businesses to buy tables and donate funds. His work, and the sponsr’s help, made the conference an unqualified triumph.
As our Hispanic population grows, it is critical that the young people should be encouraged to consider universities as a logical part of their future. Drop-outs, teen pregnancies, and gang violence do not have to be their future. The dream of success through education, and inspiring workshops at conferences like this, should be emulated by other universities around the country.
Success for our Hispanic youth is possible.