More Than 300 Students Attend the College's Second Annual Latino Conference
(Delaware and Chester Counties, PA • April 15, 2016)—Before a standing-room-only audience at the College’s Marple Campus today, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera participated in a wide-ranging discussion about Latinos, education, and his own background growing up in a low-income neighborhood in North Philadelphia.
"My mother did not finish high school until I was in College," Rivera said. "She dropped out of high school to have me."
From humble beginnings, however, he said he was able to overcome many obstacles, from discrimination because of his Puerto Rican heritage to coming from a low-income neighborhood. He became a college graduate, a teacher, a school principal, a superintendent for Lancaster County, and eventually a member of Governor Wolf’s cabinet as the state’s Secretary of Education.
One of only 10 people nationally honored in 2014 by the White House as a Champion of Change for his efforts to transform urban education, Rivera was one of a multitude of speakers at the College’s second annual Latino Conference, “Beyond Multiculturalism: Empowering Latino Students and the Community.”
The conference featured panel discussions on issues such as immigration; the representation of Latinos in movies, television and news; inclusion; equity; and mentoring. Coordinated by the College’s faculty-led Latino Initiatives Outreach Network (LION) and the College’s student-led Latin Flavor Club, the free conference included a free lunch with ethnic foods.
A first-generation college graduate who earned a Bachelor of Science degree from The Pennsylvania State University and a Master's degree in Education Administration from Cheyney University, Rivera said he realized early in life that his calling was to be a teacher and to help people better their lives through education.
"I’ve been blessed to do what I love to do," he said, urging the students, many of whom were from high schools in Delaware and Chester counties, to find a career path they can be passionate about, to work hard, and to not be deterred by language barriers, discrimination, or other obstacles.
During one of the conference panel discussions, Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, the dean of Esperanza College, said that when she was growing up, a school advisor told her she would not help a Puerto Rican go to college. Undeterred, Conde-Frazier said she continued her educational pursuits and today is the head of a Philadelphia-based college collaborative with Eastern University that helps Latinos gain access to higher education.
"Smart is not something you are. Smart is something you become,” Conde-Frazier said, urging the students to never let anyone make them feel less than, intimidate them, or steal their dreams. “You have to have a vision for yourself."
Conference topics and panel discussion participants included:
"Abriendo Puertas: Strengthening Latino Communities through Mentoring, Leadership and Increasing College Access,” with panelists Dr. Conde-Frazier, dean of Esperanza College; attorney Steven Larin, senior director of Legal Services & Immigration Policy at the Nationalities Services Center; attorney Abel Rodriguez, assistant professor of Religious Studies at Cabrini College; and Maria Sotomayor, organizer and civic engagement coordinator, Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition. The panel’s moderator was Vanessa Beltran-Velez, president of Delaware County Community College’s Latin Flavor Club.
"Changing the Narrative: Latino Representation and the Challenges of Immigration, Equity and Inclusion," with panelists Edwin Mayorga, a Swarthmore College assistant professor of Educational Studies; Dr. Iliana Pagan-Teitelbaum, a West Chester University assistant professor of Spanish & Latin American Film; Dr. Marissa Pereyra, an Immaculata University associate professor of Global Languages; and Gil Gonzalez, senior designer, host of the cable show, Entre Nosotros. The panel’s moderator was David Escobar-Martin, 2015 Montgomery County Poet Laureate.
"Latino Student Perspectives and the College Experience," with panelists Carlo Alcaraz, Latin Flavor Club vice president; Jamily Aneas, a student at the College; Vanessa Beltran-Velez, Latin Flavor Club president; David Ordonez, a student at the College; and Carla Yanes, a founding member of the Latin Flavor Club. The panel’s moderator was 2015 Delaware County Community College graduate Jarely Becerra Roberts of Newtown Square.