On Saturday, CommUNITY en ACCIÓN held its seventh annual Young Achievers Forum (YAF) at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).
Organizer say YAF is an “education-focused event that gives at-risk sixth-grade students and their families a taste of college for a day. This year, the day-long event marked its seventh consecutive year held at UTEP.
“A key component of YAF is ensuring that parents are engaged in their students’ pursuit of post-secondary opportunities from an early start,” 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 and their parents the tools to achieve and make their dreams a reality.”
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.
“Our partnership with the Young Achievers Forum builds on UTEP’s commitment to ensure that our region’s students 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 can introduce the idea of going to college, the better prepared students will be to enroll and complete their degrees. We are always delighted to welcome the sixth graders who come to the UTEP campus excited to learn more about the University.”
Dr. Natalicio welcomed students and parents to the UTEP campus highlighting the importance of a higher education and the significant impact students can have on El Paso’s future.
This year’s keynote address was given by Dr. Luis Luna, Region 19’s 2018 Secondary Teacher of the Year.
“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, CEA board member. “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 overwhelmed with pride when we see how this program has served as a catalyst for students to pursue their dreams,” said Carmen Perez, CommUNITY en ACCIÓN Member and Partner, Delgado Acosta Spencer Linebarger & Perez Law Firm. ““If no one in your family or community has gone to college, you might not think of it as something you can do. Our goal is to change that mindset and show students what is possible and give them a roadmap for how to make it happen.”
Since its inception in 2011, the forum has introduced over 6,000 students across El Paso County to the possibility of a higher education and each year its impact continues to grow in the region. Earlier this month, the program took place in Southern New Mexico where 500 students descended onto the New Mexico State University campus for the event.
CommUNITY en ACCIÓN is a nonprofit dedicated to advocating for the Hispanic community in El Paso.