Latino Students and Houston’s Latino Leaders Celebrate Identity and Prepare to Take Action in their Community
YES Prep Public Schools reinforced its commitment to diversity and leadership development by hosting the inaugural Latino Leadership Summit at its newest campus, YES Prep Southside on Thursday, March 3rd. More than 35 Latino community leaders and 220 Latino high school students selected from more than 300 applicants participated in the day’s workshops organized around the theme ¡Adelante! – Spanish for forward. The Summit’s goal was to support students in moving forward with their plans to take action in their communities.
Students engaged in three cultural and leadership development sessions allowing them to explore their Latino identity, develop understanding around the issues that face the Latino community, and develop an action plan around what they can do to create change in their own communities. The Summit was also an opportunity for students to meet and interact with Latino leaders from the Houston area and to learn from their experiences.
“At YES Prep, we embrace and protect diversity to advance equity and social justice. The Latino Leadership Summit allowed students from different YES Prep campuses to come together as a community to not only celebrate identity, but also to engage in leadership development that will allow them to take action in the future,” said Superintendent Mark DiBella.
Following successful summits for its African American students, YES Prep decided to extend a similar opportunity to its Latino students, which comprises 85 percent of its total student population. "One important aspect of YES Prep’s vision is to create life-changing opportunities for our students that celebrate their identity in the achievement of our mission,” remarked board member Tom Castro who is also Founder and CEO of El Dorado Capital.
Castro was among the Houston Latino leaders who voluntarily participated in the Summit. “We were fortunate to have enlisted so many impressive people who are not only leaders in the Latino community but in their fields as well. We encouraged them to observe, engage in conversations, and share their experiences so that our students see Latino and Latina role models who care deeply about our community and our young leaders,” added YES Prep’s Vice President of Talent, Nella Garcia Urban.
Students spent equal parts listening and contributing to meaningful discussions with leaders in business, education, non-profits and even, politics. During her opening remarks, Texas Representative Carol Alvarado said, “We are the largest minority in the state of Texas. We are the fastest growing population in the country. But what does that mean if it doesn’t translate into voting? Into graduating more kids? I want these numbers to mean something and so we’re here to share our experience with you and to also challenge and tell you that we are counting on you.”
Senator Sylvia Garcia reinforced the importance of taking action within your own community, “The time for people to say ‘this is what Latinos need and want,’ is over. We are here. We’re not going anywhere and it should be up to us to decide where our community is going.”
Invoking the Summit’s theme, ¡Adelante!, Texas Representative Gilbert Peña encouraged students to “keep going; don’t just sit still. Don’t accept things as they are but rather go forward and change what you can.”
Over García, a senior and Student Council President at YES Prep Brays Oaks summarized his experience, “I managed to understand the importance of embracing who I am - a Hispanic who will soon represent his community in all ways. The Latino Leadership Summit not only served as an inspirational experience, but also as a reminder that I must always remember my roots and help those who helped me be the person I am now. We as Hispanics, as Latinos, must overcome adversity and thrive like seeds in the ground.”
The views and opinions expressed in guest blog posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Texas Charter Schools Association.