MEChA prepares high school students for college

About 400 students from 20 middle and high schools visited CSUN on Saturday for the 10th Annual Raza Youth Conference organized by MEChA.

The theme for the daylong event was “The empowerment of our community begins with you.”

“Our purpose is to inform students of the process of higher education,” said sophomore Spanish major Angelica Amezcua, one of the main organizers of the event.

“Unfortunately, sometimes youth are disadvantaged and counselors don’t tell them anything about the help they can receive once they’re in college. We tell them that they are not alone and there is a lot of help out there,” Amezcua said.

Monica Garcia, president of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, and Eddie Torres, a CSUN graduate and community activist, were the keynote speakers. There was live entertainment from local bands and dance groups.

The conference was broken down into three workshop sessions that were conducted in English and Spanish by current and former CSUN students, CSUN professors and staff, MEChA members from other universities and community activists.

The workshops took place at classrooms inside Jerome Richfield and Sierra Hall. The issues discussed included financial aid, the Educational Opportunity Program, academia, culture, nutrition, immigration and sexuality.

Rosa Furumoto, assistant professor of Chicano/a studies, who conducted workshops on military recruitment, said, “For a lot of students in high school, this is their first experience for going to college. Counselors don’t necessarily hear all students. Parents need to know their rights and their children’s rights.”

Since parental attendance and participation was encouraged, Nancy Menjivar, a senior psychology major, said the conference focused on the strong family structure prevalent in Latino homes.

“Having these events involves (parents) and that’s the key to succeeding in college and succeeding in life,” said Menjivar, who led a discussion on gang prevention and intervention.

Luis Gonzalez and his 14-year-ol daughter Arlyne, a student at Belvedere Middle School, agreed and said they enjoyed the conference. Arlyne said she would like to apply to CSUN in the future.

Belvedere was one of the four middle schools invited to the event. Some high school students thought it was a good idea to have students visit the university at a young age.

Nabitle Ibarra, 17, a student at Lincoln High School, said she thought it was important for middle school students to become aware of college.

“When I was in middle school, I didn’t know that much about college,” Ibarra said. “I just knew I had to go.”

Steven Perez, 14, another Lincoln student, said, “This is a really good opportunity to see what college really looks like. I didn’t have the chance to come here when I was in middle school, so it’s good for students to come now.”

Suzuky Silva, 17, said she found out about the different programs offered at CSUN and was informed about useful information on how to receive help in college.

“(The presenters) let people know about our culture and how we have struggled to get our education and the importance of continuing our education through middle school, high school and college.”

Carlos Flores, a senior engineering major, who presented on immigration rights, said it is imperative that students take advantage of what they have available to them.

“We are here to teach students the proper path to follow to get the education they deserve and to inspire them because their stories are our stories,” Flores said. “It is in our interests to outreach to young people and other people in the community…They are probably evaluating other students in similar situations, and they view us, if not as role models, as an inspiration.”

Amezcua said MEChA started planning the event before the semester began during the winter break. Free breakfast and lunch was offered to students, parents and teachers.