These are the two wishes from a Perth Amboy 8th grade student after spending a day attending the HISPA 2010 Youth Conference: “I want to set my dream and I want to be successful”.
“Take Action! Achieve Your Dreams” was the theme of the conference hosted at Princeton University Campus on June 11, where 120 middle school students spent the day with Latino professionals. “This was a great experience and I feel eager for knowledge. I want to set my dream and I want to be successful. I got interested in finance. It was very fun.” –said a female student from Shull Middle School in Perth Amboy.
The event started with an interactive activity among professionals from industry and academia with the students. Professionals came to Princeton from companies such as AT&T, Merck, Novartis, Prudential, Bank of America, J&J; from Academia including NJIT, Fairleigh Dickinson and Kean University; and business leaders like Argent Associates CEO Betty Manetta.
The HISPA Role Models spent time with the students discussing facts related to educational attainment of US students and statistics about the dropout crisis. Next, each group of 6 to 8 students was challenged to build the tallest tower possible using playing cards. The students showed team effort and creativity as they faced the challenge.
(In this photo Betty Manetta with students at the "Interactive Activity with HISPA Role Models Welcome Session")
For the opening remarks, all participants joined together in the very same large lecture room where Albert Einstein offered lectures when he was a professor at Princeton University. The room is kept the same as it looked over 60 years ago. Dr. Ivonne Diaz-Claisse spoke about the importance of finding inspiration from role models – from looking back in history but also to “keeping your role models real” – as she introduced Dr. Alicia Abella, Technology Innovator, the inspirational speaker who showcased the fact that you can be “cool and smart”. She talked about her Cuban heritage and her educational background in computer science and her career in AT&T Labs.
(In this photo Roxzana Kelly from Novartis (Hispanic Leadership Network) with students at the "Interactive Activity with HISPA Role Models Welcome Session")
After the opening remarks the students split into smaller groups to attend workshops that gave them a view into careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), careers in Finance and a view into the college admission process.
In this photo Dr. Mary Fernandez from AT&T Labs shows the students about iPhone technology during the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Applied to GeoGames: Fun and healthy outdoor multiplayer iPhone games Workshop
After the workshops, students joined the HISPA Role Models for lunch and a surprise visit from Michael Hardy, 2010 New Jersey Shout Down Drugs music contest winner, who entertain the students with a rap: “No Thanks” and provided words of advice to the students. New Jersey Shout Down Drugs music contest is a Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey annual initiative that challenges New Jersey high school students to write original music with powerful drug prevention messages.
Remove the words “I can’t” from your vocabulary; get at least one advanced degree and bring along two other junior students up with you as you move up in your ladder, but, if you fall, let go of them, don’t bring them down with you. These were the three lessons Dr. Marta Tienda, Professor of Sociology at Princeton University, reinforced in her Keynote Speaker Address. During her address she continued to encourage the students to face life with a “relentless pursuit of excellence”.
“It had to be the part where Dr. Marta Tienda gave her speech. Her experience impacted me the most because she had hard times and she was still successful. She motivated me to do the best I can because if she could do it from her experience I can do it too. I loved her list of three things we should do, she's a great motivational speaker and that's what I liked the most.” – A student from Shull Middle School wrote about the part of the HISPA 2010 Youth Conference that impacted her the most.
Next, a group of young Latino adults came forward as part of the “Life after High School” panel. Students from Rutgers University, Lehigh University, Fairleigh Dickinson and New Jersey Institute of Technology joined to share their cultural and educational background; what they did well in high school that helped them succeed in applying to University and some of the lessons learned. “It was the fact when the college students came and talked about their experiences. It impacted me because since I’m going to high school next year it helps me understand”, a comment shared by one of the participating 8th grade students about the College Panel presentation.
The closing remarks by Dr. Diaz-Claisse included examples of her experiences in high school and how she took action to achieve her dreams, showing by example that academic achievement and extra curriculum activities in high school and college are critical steps that will lead them to a successful professional career and to their dreams.
At the end of the conference, the Latino Princetonians – the Latino employee resource group of Princeton University - hosted a reception to thank the HISPA Role Models for their participation. “We know the students had a great experience based on the informal feedback we received so far from the schools and after quickly browsing the results from the feedback forms” said Mayra Caceres, HISPA Youth Conference Director from AT&T Labs.
“I attend many youth events, largely in support of STEM education, and today's event was by far one of the best. The program content was outstanding.” – feedback received from Dr. Mary Fernandez, HISPA Role Model from AT&T Labs.
HISPA is very proud of the caliber of professionals that joined this year’s Youth Conference allowing HISPA to provide an enriching and inspiring educational experience to the participating students.
HISPA is grateful to the 2010 Youth Conference Sponsors: AT&T (Transform Sponsor), Spanish Educational Resources, a division of Camera Mundi, Inc (Inspire Sponsor), and Merck and PSE&G (Share Sponsors). Special acknowledgement to PNC Bank for providing the “Take Action! Achieve Your Dreams” t-shirts for the students.