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MEChA de UCLA hosts one thousand on campus

by Claridad Suspendida Thursday, May. 30, 2002 at 2:03 PM
lucero123h@hotmail.com 760-631-7085 1043 Nita Lane

The story covers the efforts of UCLA Chicano activists who held a Youth Conference this past saturday. It's under one thousand words. Has interviews.

errorMEChA de UCLA hosts one thousand on campus

Claridad Suspendida  One thousand Chicano/Latino high school students attended MEChA de UCLAs, Ninth Annual Raza Youth Conference, last Saturday, May 25. In addition to the students and their parents, teachers from the Los Angeles area and UCLA Alumni were present. The theme of the conference was In Lak Etch, Nhuatl, for Recognizing our Roots through Awareness and Liberation.

The conference began at Westwood Plaza, near eight in the morning, where high school students registered according to grade level. Student organizers, in Conference t-shirts welcomed arrivees in a fresh, but healthy frenzy. As parents were also invited, young children could be seen holding the hands of their guardians and older siblings. The inclusion of parents and children at the event added to it, a family-focused dimension.

As keynote speakers for the event, were Patrisia Gonzales and Roberto Rodriguez, writers of the syndicated, Column of the Americas. While Gonzales was absent, Rodriguez addressed the conferences theme discussing the origins of Latino people, or in his words, talking to: where we come from in a society that treats many of us as though we don't belong. Generously sharing his knowledge, Rodriguez emphasized the importance of coming to respect all human beings through the practice of learning from all races and cultures.

During the sunny day, the young Latinos, were offered a variety of thirty-one workshops,
with subjects spanning from 9/11, to gender relations, to self-esteem. In an interview, UCLA de MEChA chairperson, Elizabeth Serna, stated that the conference was meant to be holistic. Elaborating on holistic, Serna expressed that MEChAs intention was to provide an informational day beyond the academic. Not dismissing the essence of academics for a UCLA education, Serna affirmed these are only a part of what creates success in college. As a result, Serna clarified that the Youth Conference aimed to foster critical thinking on social, cultural, political, and academic issues, among its guests.

For Sandra Stella, of Morning Side High School, attending the Conference was equal to running towards a mirage. She expressed joy because of the information she learned about how to enter college and the opportunities available, but she seemed displeased at the exclusivity of this knowledge to a wider number of students. Stella stated, I was touched by the unity and the help that I got, but it seemed secretive.

Despite the events high turnout, the true majority of Los Angeless Latino youth remain unenlightened about how to acquire and complete a post-secondary education. Stella confirmed that she planned to apply her knowledge to her high school MEChA activities and to attend college in the future.

Cristina Serna, a teacher from Southgate high school, is already bringing this knowledge to the students at her workplace. In addition to ensuring that her students attend events like these, she also encourages them in efforts to improve their own community. In Southgate, where industrial development causes environmental pollution, Serna has seen her students act to demand solutions to their communitys problems. According to Serna, Youth Conferences raise their students awarenesses by showing them that the adverse conditions in their communities are not normal. Further, that they can organize work to change them, as well as themselves through a college education.

Someone who not only believes in, but knows about how to create social change is Mara de Jess Baltierra, M.D., a UCLA alumnus from the Class of 1972, present at the conference. According to Dr. Baltierra, when she was an undergraduate at UCLA the total number of Latinos attending was sixty. She was one of them, and along with others, she, struggled for the increase in educational opportunity for Latinos, and all people, at the level of the U.C. system. Attending the Youth Conference herself, as alumni, was likened to drinking from the gourd of hope. Dr. Baltierra was impressed with the number of high school students reached by MEChA de UCLA, the organization she, herself, worked in more than thirty years ago.

A sector of individuals very personally invested in these students transformation through higher education, are their very own parents. Over one hundred parents had their own, separate conference on the UCLA campus this Saturday.

For Agustn Meza, a parent from El Centro, the conference means knowing the information necessary to support the students, in their pursuit for higher education. His daughter is a freshman at UCLA, for whom, the campus support, via tutoring assistance, financial aid, and academic advising, has positively influenced her efforts.

Future Raza Youth Conferences on UCLA and across the nation, may benefit Meza, students, and parents like him, all for whom, a future where Latinos are growing into the second-largest population in the country will be determined by how we struggle for higher education and seize opportunity.

Viva la Raza!
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