Pouring rain did not deter nearly 200 students, parents and community members from attending the Latino Role Models and Parent Education Conference held on a Saturday morning at Harbor High this spring. The theme for the conference, Juntos (Spanish for “together”), also expresses the collaboration between Santa Cruz City Schools, Soquel Union Elementary School District, Live Oak School District, the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, local agencies such as the Santa Cruz Police Department, and dozens of community volunteers that made the event possible.
At this year’s Latino Role Model Conference (fourth annual), middle and high school age youth and their parents heard from members of the local Latino community representing diverse professions such as school administrators and college professors, photographers, journalists, psychologists, doctors, and lawyers. Each of these local community members shared their personal journey to their particular profession, providing important stories of perseverance and hope to aspiring youth as well as tangible evidence of success. Latino Role Model founder Fe Esperanza Robles said, “Four years ago the idea of the Latino Role Model started when Centeotl dancers were about to finish high school and they didn’t know what was the next step to continue their education after high school. It is a rewarding experience to see some students coming back year after year. Our youth become motivated and inspired by people—professionals who through perseverance and dedication have accomplished their goals. It is nice to see that our youth are hungry for learning.” After the event, one student commented, “The tips and stories shared are going to help me succeed.”
New to the event this year was a strand of parent education workshops providing information to the parents of elementary school students. Workshops offered included how to find low-cost internet options, methods of discipline that support children’s social-emotional development, how to support children’s literacy at home, and how to raise a bilingual child. Parent workshops were offered in Spanish, with English translation available, so that all attendees could access the information.
The dance group Centeotl, co-founders of the event, performed during the lunch hour and Isai Pazos, a local entrepreneur, got folks moving with a participatory dance demonstration.
The UCSC chapter of Hermanos Unidos provided more than a dozen volunteers, who not only served as guides and session assistants but also as role models for the middle and high school age youth.
The Santa Cruz County Office of Education is proud to partner with districts and local community members to support the parents of English learners. Research shows that students whose parents are engaged with their education are more successful academically.