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Ferris Hosts 12th Annual Latino Youth Conference in Big Rapids

ALSAME Youth ConferenceFerris State University is set to host the 12th annual Advocates for Latino Student Advancement in Michigan Education youth conference on Friday, April 20.

More than 600 Hispanic students from 16 high schools in West Michigan will attend the day-long conference from 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. in Ferris’ Williams Auditorium. The non-profit educational group provides workshops, scholarships and college awareness for Latino students.

“Diversity is a Ferris core value. We are striving to promote diversity,” said Natalia Carvalho-Pinto, administrative assistant for the College of Allied Health Sciences. “We want to bring diverse students to campus, and this is one of the ways that is proof of that desire.”

The conference is hosted at a different Michigan university each year. This is the second time that Ferris has hosted the conference, with a dramatic increase in participation. In 2008, roughly 100 students attended. Last year, Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, approximately 500 students participated in the event.

Students attending this year’s conference at Ferris will hear from keynote speakers Michael Reyes, an award-winning playwright and poet; and Roy Juarez, a motivational speaker who was featured in “Chicken Soup for The Soul: Extraordinary Teens.”

“Look at the statistics. Hispanics have the highest dropout rate and the lowest college completion rate. This conference is really about academic preparation for the targeted population,” Carvalho-Pinto said.  “The speakers are motivation.”

The high school students will attend workshops, learn about scholarships and how to prepare for college, and attend a college fair to prepare for life after graduation.

“I hope that students will stay inspired to finish high school and go to college. That’s the whole purpose. The conference will help them see that they can do it,” she said. “They can reach their goals with higher education. Higher education is seize-able.”

Two ALSAME scholarships will be awarded during the conference to graduating seniors. The 40 applicants this year will be reviewed by the ALSAME scholarship committee and recipients will be recognized during the award ceremony.

Ferris has been a member of ALSAME for the past 10 years. This year’s conference is made possible thanks to the Office of the Provost, the Diversity and Inclusion Office and Ferris State University-Grand Rapids.