On Saturday, CommUNITY en ACCIÓN—a nonprofit dedicated to advocating for the Hispanic community in El Paso—held its sixth annual Young Achievers Forum (YAF) at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). YAF is an education focused event that gives at-risk sixth-grade students and their families a taste of college for a day.
1,000 middle school students and their families attended the event, which instills in students the importance of higher education and explains to them and their families how they can make it a part of their lives.
Earlier this year, the program expanded to Southern New Mexico, partnering with New Mexico State University (NMSU) and Governor Susana Martinez to engage 500 area middle school students in the forum.
“Six years ago, we began with a basic idea, which was to capture students at a crucial stage of their education and personal development and introduce them to higher education in an exciting, impactful environment,” stated Raymond Palacios, President of Bravo Chevrolet Cadillac and founder of YAF. “Our goal is simple–expose and give students the space and platform to dream big about their future career paths and give them the tools to achieve and make their dreams a reality.”
This year, the day-long event marked its sixth consecutive year held at UTEP.
“Our partnership with the Young Achievers Forum builds on UTEP’s commitment to ensure that all young people in this region have access to excellent higher education opportunities that will enable them to achieve their dreams,” said Dr. Diana Natalicio, President of UTEP. “The earlier we are able to instill the idea of college, the better equipped students will be to prepare for success and complete their degrees when they do enroll. We always enjoy working with all the sixth graders who come to campus excited to learn more about the idea of college.”
Students and families were welcomed by Dr. Diana Natalicio, followed by keynote remarks by Estela Casas, an El Paso native who has had an illustrative career in journalism and was inducted into the El Paso Women’s Hall of Fame.
“By bringing local leaders from our community to speak directly to students about their personal experience with college and own career path, students can hopefully see a reflection of their future selves,” said Jaime Barceleau, YAF El Paso Chair.
“Students can see first-hand that college is absolutely a possibility and they should envision themselves in a college campus six years from now and being a doctor, engineer or in any other profession down the road.”
During the day-long event, groups of students and parents attended informational sessions covering five broad fields of study: health and medicine; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); business and finance; liberal arts and education; and public safety.
Special breakout sessions for parents and family members—facilitated in Spanish and English—helped them prepare their children for higher education, from explaining the college application process to financial aid options.
“We are very proud to have organized our sixth annual Young Achievers Forum in El Paso, bringing our total number of students close to 5,000, including today’s event,” said Carmen Perez, CommUNITY en ACCIÓN Member and Partner, Delgado Acosta Spencer Linebarger & Perez Law Firm. “The running success and impact of YAF is a reflection of our community coming together to engage, inspire and prepare our future generation of leaders and innovators in our region.”