District schools host regional LIA conference
The media center at West Point Junior High School is generally a happy place where students like to congregate. This day, the center has a festive atmosphere.
It’s a setting for a portion of the Utah North Region of the Latinos in Action (LIA) Leadership Conference. Dr. Jose Enriquez, CEO/Founder of LIA, has a small audio-visual team with him in the media center.
Sporting his signature bow tie, Enriquez, who was born in El Salvador and grew up in East Los Angeles, is being broadcast live to other schools in the region. A graduate of BYU, he began the non-profit LIA program two decades ago.
After he introduces the theme of the 2021 conference as “Be the Change,” a few minutes is given to Davis School District Superintendent Reid Newey and Assistant Superintendent John Zurbuchen, who address all the students from the West Point media center.
Next on the TV screen is U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona. He’s providing the keynote address. He’s a former elementary school teacher, principal, commissioner of education in Connecticut and the first Hispanic to serve as the nation’s top educator. He grew up in public housing and began attending public school speaking only Spanish.
One of the 20 West Point Junior High School students listening to Cardona is eighth-grader Glade Fessler. The soft-spoken and friendly student is the incoming SBO president for the 2021-22 school year.
“Latinos in Action has helped me a lot,” Fessler says. “We have just done so many different things. ... Mr. Bradshaw (the school’s LIA advisor) always encourages us to always try our hardest. When I first came in, I was a little nervous about LIA because it was brand new for me and I didn’t know what to do.
“But Mr. Bradshaw helped me get out of my comfort zone and taught me a lot," he says. “He taught me a lot about self-confidence, to be kind and outgoing to everyone you meet, no matter their background, no matter their ethnicity, no matter what they look like.”
As the morning live broadcast concludes, Enriquez and his AV crew quickly break down the equipment for their afternoon live broadcast — 24 miles to the south at Woods Cross High School.
As they do that, Bradshaw speaks to his West Point students about how the conference day will proceed, sharing details about workshops entitled “The Power of Self-Resilience,” “Goal Setting and Its Importance” and “Superman Has Nothing on You.” Representatives of Goldman Sachs will teach the classes.
Other workshops, including, “What Does it Mean to Be College Ready?” “Preparing and Paying for College” and “Mental Health and Personal Development,” are to be taught by representatives of Utah Valley University, Florida Atlantic University and Utah State University.
Fessler says LIA has really changed his outlook.
“I know some people have to work harder than me, and that I can help them,” he says. “Even just a small simple thing like an act of kindness may help someone.”
LIA offers an asset-based approach to bridging the graduation and opportunity gap for Latino students, working from within the educational system to create positive change. The end goal of everything done in the course is to empower Latino youth to lead and strengthen their communities through college and career readiness.
That afternoon in the little theatre at Woods Cross High School, Enriquez and his AV crew start the second live broadcast of the conference. While students from Woods Cross are joined in the space by south-end junior high schools in Davis School District, students from other northern Utah school districts are participating via Zoom.
Woods Cross High School Senior Juliana Garcia, who serves as the president of her school’s LIA Club, addresses the gathering, as do a host of others. A singer and dancers also hit the stage.
Then filmmaker Eduardo Chávez — grandson of both the legendary civil rights activist Cesar Chávez (on his father’s side) and the Cuban revolutionary Max Lesnik (on his mother’s side) — addresses attendees and takes part in a live Q&A about his film “Hailing Cesar.”
Enriquez also announces a host of awards to students and schools from throughout the Utah North Region.
“LIA has helped me in many different ways,” Garcia says. “It definitely shaped my identity and helped me be proud of who I am.”
She explains she’ll be attending Weber State in the fall to pursue medicine. She wants to be a role model for others and looks forward to serving fellow Hispanics.
“I’m just really happy that LIA has changed my life completely and it’s definitely made me proud of who I am,” Garcia says.
“It’s helped a lot because sometimes you’ll go to school with a lot of people and you’ll feel intimidated,” she adds. “But when you come to LIA, you feel like this is home.”
LIA awards received by Davis School District schools and students during the conference:
- Gold Award — Bountiful, Davis, Layton, Northridge, Syracuse and Woods Cross high schools; Central Davis, Mueller Park, North Davis, South Davis and West Point junior highs.
- Silver Award — Clearfield High and North Layton Junior High
- Bronze Award — Sunset Junior High
- Short Film Competition — Second-place: Agustina Tellachea and Matthew Cunning, West Point Junior High; Third-place: Radley Bradshaw, West Point Junior High
- Sam and Diane Stewart Family Foundation writing competition — First-place: Mariangel Carta, Layton High School
- LIA Scholarship Award — First-place: Ana Paula Mendez-Alvarez, Layton High School
- Every LIA teacher was also named the LIA Teacher of the Year for going above and beyond this school year.