Latinx students from the University of Nevada, Reno Latino Research Center's Latino Student Advisory Board traveled to Chicago last month to participate in the 35th annual United States Hispanic Leadership Institute Conference. The theme for this year's conference was "¡La Lucha Sigue! Core Values Never Lose." Students attended various workshops and forums dealing with the latest controversial issues affecting the Latino community, and they had the opportunity to network with other Latino students from universities in 40 states, exchanging points of view and strategies of college leadership.
Students not only attended the different events prepared by USHLI but were able to have one-on-one conversations with speakers and recruiters who lent their experience to guide them toward effective paths to achieve success in college and beyond.
Policies relating to professional development, community empowerment, civic engagement, leadership skills, diversity and education were analyzed and discussed with students who had the opportunity to talk and share with experts in those fields. Speakers included prominent Latino leaders: Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association; Nina Vaca, Pinnacle Group chairman and CEO; Maria Elena Hincapié, executive director for the National Immigration Law Center; Dr. Antonia Novello, 14th U.S. Surgeon General; Federico Peña, former secretary of transportation and secretary of energy; among many others.
"The conference held the single greatest concentration of successful Hispanic leaders that I have ever seen," Edgar García, University sophomore, said. "I gained a powerful sense of solidarity by participating in this conference."
"It gave me the motivation I needed to fight for what is right and to strive for a change within my community," Itzayana Montoya, a University Latinx student, added.
Immigration was one of the issues that attracted numerous attendees at the conference, many of whom inquired about policy and law in order to have a better understanding of the effects new executive orders may have in their communities.
"Immigration was a largely discussed topic at the conference, and what I gained from each touching speech was the motivation to help others," Karolina Rivas, a University journalism student who interviewed people at the conference, said.
This is the ninth cohort of Latino Students the University Latino Research Center has sent to Chicago to participate in this event. Debra Moddelmog, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, joined the Latino Research Center's initiative in helping to fund registrations and a portion of the travel expenses for this year's group. The Gender, Race and Identity program and the Department of World Languages and Literatures also were co-sponsors.
Student Stories: University Latino students share their leadership conference experience
USHLI and Juan Andrade, president of USHLI, could not have come into my life at a better time. With the current political and social climate I face as a proud Mexicana, I was beginning to become discouraged in the fight that I knew was important, but day-by-day I seemed to be losing. Attending the conference in Chicago reinvigorated the ganas inside of me to keep pushing forward. It reminded me that my existence as a Latinx individual in this country is an act of resistance on its own, and it gives me a voice that has to be present at all conversations. Being surrounded by fellow Latinx leaders created a space that allowed me to heal all of the emotional wounds that had been inflicted on me by the harsh reality of existing racism and xenophobia in this country. Moving forward, I can thank Andrade and everyone who was in attendance at the conference for reminding me of the power I have within. I will continue to push forward and advocate for those in my community, especially those who cannot speak up without putting themselves in danger.
Being able to attend USHLI had an immense amount of value to me as a person of color, as it introduced me to Latinx leaders who, in one way or another, have had an influence on the way this country functions. It gave me the motivation I needed to fight for what is right and to strive for a change within my community. I will be applying the knowledge acquired through this conference in school by being more involved in making the University campus a sanctuary campus for everyone.
This was my first time going to this conference, but it was also my first time being surrounded by such amazing fellow Latinx people. I was interested in going because I thought it would be a great place to network and learn more about leadership, and the USHLI conference was all of that and more. I have never been in the presence of so many young Latinx students and professionals. The energy itself was incredible and the speakers were motivating as they made me feel that I am not alone. Knowing that the inventor of hot Cheetos also struggled with his Latinx identity was the feeling of solidarity that I have been yearning for. I am now more motivated than ever, and I genuinely feel like I can take several things from the conference and apply them in life. For example, before this conference I did not have many Latinx people that I looked up to, but I have discovered many leaders who I want to strive to be like. I also can help improve my own club leadership with LSAB by creating a stronger network of support with other clubs on campus, for it's our struggles that bring us together to fight bigger and better.
The USHLI conference held the single greatest concentration of successful Hispanic leaders that I have ever seen. I gained a powerful sense of solidarity by participating in this conference. Moreover, I returned from the conference with a greater determination to continue excelling academically and professionally. As I embark on my final year at this University, a rigorous work ethic is not only crucial but necessary for success in the professional world.
As I study journalism at the University, I believe that journalists live to serve a purpose: to help others. Helping others can constitute various actions. Whether it be to push towards a sanctuary campus or to inform others of their rights, knowledge should be shared or strived to achieve greatness. During the conference, I realized how fortunate and grateful I am to have the opportunities that other students may not have. Being there for others, no matter your race or religion, is important to sustain a strong sense of community through support. USHLI taught me these key attributes, and I am very thankful for the opportunity I was able to receive because of the University's faith in providing the support of their student's goals and aspirations.
Attending the USHLI conference was definitely a life altering experience for me. Prior to the conference, I had never attended any type of leadership workshop or even knew how many leaders there actually were in my community. I was able to identify with the stories I heard and found solidarity in the fact that so many people at the conference shared similar experiences to mine. I had never been exposed to that type of representation on such a large scale. To see how people overcame obstacles such as discrimination, poverty and lack of resources was such an empowering experience. I left the conference feeling energized to work towards the betterment of my community and was given the tools needed to take on more leadership roles. I became more confident in my abilities to make positive changes as I learned how to identify issues and mobilize groups with leaders in workshops. I was taught how to work more efficiently and how to stay motivated in matters where it is so easy to lose hope. Most importantly, I realized that I will not be satisfied with things that are just "okay." I will use the skills I acquired at the conference to constantly strive for and defend the values of equality and justice in this country.
For more, visit the Latino Research Center website. For more about the conference and how to get involved, visit the USHLI website.