Multicultural Youth Conference gives students a glimpse of University life

By Ashley Johnson

Growing up, Annel Medina constantly heard her parents say, “Estudies, estudies. No seas como yo. Acaba tu estudio,” which she translates as, “Study, study. Don’t be like me. Finish your school.”

Medina, a doctoral student, took her parent’s early emphasis on education and organized the Multicultural Youth Conference, which was held Saturday at the Illini Union. During the conference, students in grades seven through 12 heard presentations from University faculty and interacted with college students and professors.

“I’ve been very fortunate,” Medina said. “I’ve had lots of privileges and opportunities and I know that a lot of people don’t have that. I just want to provide as many resources to students as possible.”

Doctoral candidates Chandra Gill and Hugo Campuzano encouraged students to pursue higher education.

Gill spoke about the three p’s – perseverance, patience and power. Campuzano told students how he overcame personal struggles, including poverty and an eighth grade teacher who told him he would not amount to anything.

Deanna Carr, a ninth-grader at Centennial High School, said she already aspires to attend college, but the conference made her want to go even more. Carr said she is interested in attending the University or Spelman College.

Medina said she came up with the idea after she saw similar conferences at colleges in California. She said there is a special need to recruit local students because the University often focuses on students from Chicago. Of the 130 students who attended the conference, about 20 were from Chicago and the rest were local residents, she said.

LaDonna Walker, a senior at Centennial High School, went to a session on financial aid. She said it showed her there are ways to avoid graduating from college with huge debt.

Several campus organizations, including the Minority Association for Future Educators, volunteered at the conference. D’Andre Weaver, president of MAFE, said the organization wants to make the transition to college easier for high school students.

MAFE vice-president Chyla Tillman said she hopes the conference becomes an annual event.

“Oftentimes, a lot of minorities are not exposed to the resources to attend higher education, so this conference allows them to get a glimpse of the benefits of higher education,” Tillman said. “We think that it’s important for college students and administrators to reach back and help other minorities and to let them know that higher education is attainable.”