When Western Oregon University welcomes the 27th annual Cesar E. Chavez Leadership Conference to campus on Friday, it will include a boisterous busload of students from Westview High School.
More than 20 students are making the trip this year. Many are members of MEChA, a nationwide organization that supports Latino and Latina students.
The event is expected to draw more than 2,000 Oregon Hispanic high school students, with a focus on workshops, an exhibitor fair, guest sessions, an awards ceremony and a dance.
“I’m really excited to know what the conference is all about,” said Yamilhet Sandoval, a junior at Westview. “I’ve had friends go. They said going gave them new courage than they would have ordinarily.”
Senior Hector Miranda said he wants to see how students from the rest of the state are working on some of the same issues that come up at his school. “I also want to hear about other cultures; what are their challenges and progresses,” he said.
Tanya Bonilla Hidalgo, also a senior, said her family is Costa Rican. “I really want to know what this conference is all about, and to learn about other cultures that are different than mine,” she said.
Some, like seniors Juan Flores and Nathan Lara, attended last year’s conference as well.
The keynote speaker kicking off the conference will be Roy Juarez Jr., who founded the human development firm America’s Business Leaders in 2005. Juarez spent part of his youth as a homeless dropout but went on to graduate from Hardin-Simmons University in Texas. He tours the country speaking about hope and the power of higher education.
The conference is in its 27th year, and the past nine events have been on the WOU campus in Monmouth. Students from 10 Oregon counties are slated to attend. Participating students are eligible to compete in art, essay, poetry, video and college scholarship competitions.
Carrie Matsuo, adviser for the students, said the program allows students to get to meet their peers from around the state, and to get the feel for a college campus. “This is an amazing opportunity for them,” said Matsuo, College and Career Center specialist and community partners liaison for Westview.
By Dana Haynes
Beaverton Valley Times
Note: We altered the spelling in this article from Caesar to Cesar to match the conference name.