14th Annual Latino Youth Conference – Culture, Education & Dreams



PHOTOGRAPHER TERRY JOHNSTON

March 4, 3013, Grand Rapids MI — The 14th Annual Latino Youth Conference celebrating Latino culture, higher education, and the power of dreams was held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at the GRCC Bob & Aleicia Woodrick Diversity Learning Center. The conference hosted nearly 780 8th-grade students from a variety of middle schools throughout Kent County.

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The event was organized by Grand Rapids Community College’s Bob & Aleicia Woodrick Diversity Learning Center with the assistance of a steering committee comprised of various businesses, non-profits and school districts. Over the past thirteen years, 13,000 students have attended this annual conference and $30,000 in scholarships has been awarded.

The event began with breakfast and a welcome from Master of Ceremonies, Quentin Florido. Welcome remarks were made by Dr. Steven Ender, President, Grand Rapids Community College; Dr. Mayda Bahamonde-Gunnell, Executive Director for Leadership Middle Schools/K-8/ELL, Grand Rapids Public Schools.

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City High 11th grader, Daniel Lopez was recognized for taking 1st place in the Art Contest for this year’s conference Poster design. Two students received $1000 scholarships to the college of their choice: Allison Arnold, Academic Achievement Award, City High SchoolMonzzerat Ayala, Academic Progress, Ottawa Hills High SchoolThe Latino Youth Committee has awarded over 35 scholarships since 2000.

The keynote speaker this year was Gabe Salazar, recognized as Americas #1 Latino Youth Speaker by Popular Hispanics Magazine. Gabe’s motivational message challenges teens to make positive choices and to dream big. Salazar’s energy, tenacity, and positive spirit led him to become a successful motivational speaker after overcoming extreme poverty and gang influence to become the first in his family to attend college.

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Following the keynote students participated in various workshops in education, youth leadership, career preparation and self-esteem.

“The true dedication of the committee, and the generous support and resources of KISD, GRCC and GRPS, along with so many community businesses have made this the premier conference for 8th grade students in the state of Michigan,” said Chris Arnold, director of the GRCC Bob & Aleicia Woodrick Diversity Learning Center. “The ability to make this a sustainable reality over the past thirteen years is an indication of the commitment to our youth by these institutions and the West Michigan community.”

The Latino Youth Conference is supported by Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kent Intermediate School District, Grand Valley State University, Spectrum Health, City of Grand Rapids/Our Community’s Children, and more. 

Grand Rapids Community College, established in 1914, offers opportunities for over 30,000 students annually in degree courses, certification and training programs, workshops and personal enrichment classes. GRCC holds classes on the downtown Grand Rapids campus as well as several additional locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.