About 400 high school students from across the Chicago area were inspired by Joaquin Zihuatanejo, an award-winning American slam poet and teacher on Oct. 4 at Lewis University’s annual Si Se Puede Conference. The event includes workshops that provide each student with the information and inspiration about the college admission, financial aid process, and what to do now to get ready for college.
“Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t be the best in the world at something,” said Joaquin during his keynote address. He was the 2008 Individual World Poetry Slam Champion.
Lewis University Educational Leadership Doctoral student Alfonso Montero also inspired the students. A stint in the Peace Corps among other endeavors led him to volunteer in over 50 countries in every continent, except Antarctica. Montero has 10 years of experience working for civil society organizations. He grew up in Guanajuato, Mexico and Cicero, Illinois where he attended Morton East High School. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Lewis University and a Master of Science from New York University. He said he went back to Lewis University for his doctorate degree because “Lewis’ focus on social justice.”
The Si Se Puede Conference is in the spirit of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, who believed strongly in community empowerment. The conference serves as a beacon of hope for many Latino high school students whom would otherwise feel a college degree is not attainable. Since its inception in 2001, more than 3,000 students have participated in the Si Se Puede Conference.
“Since its inception, the Si Se Puede Conference has inspired more than 3,000 Latina/o high school students with information and inspiration to go to college. With the changing demographics in the area and educational inequities that exist in our society, the conference serves as a catalyst energize a community around the importance of higher education,” commented Martha Villegas Miranda, coordinator of University Ministry Outreach and assistant to the director of Multicultural Student Services. Villegas Miranda is the chair of the conference and has been coordinating this event since 2004. More than 40 student volunteers gave up one day of their fall break to mentor and coordinate the conference.
High schools in attendance included: Curie Metro High School – Chicago, De La Salle Institute – Chicago, Joliet Central High School – Joliet, Lake Park High School – Roselle, Lemont High School – Lemont, Naperville North High School – Naperville, Metea Valley High School – Aurora, and Morton East High School – Cicero.
Lewis University is a Catholic university offering distinctive undergraduate and graduate programs to more than 6,500 traditional and adult students. Lewis offers multiple campus locations, online degree programs, and a variety of formats that provide accessibility and convenience to a growing student population. Sponsored by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, Lewis prepares intellectually engaged, ethically grounded, globally connected, and socially responsible graduates. The ninth largest private not-for-profit university in Illinois, Lewis has been nationally recognized by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report.
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