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Keynote speaker Antonio Esquibel addresses ECU's first conference on Latino issues, attended by local leaders in the Latino community, ECU students, faculty and staff. Photos by Cliff Hollis.
ECU hosts first conference on Latino issues
(Oct. 27, 2008) — Of 1,000 Latino students to start elementary school, 600 of them will finish high school, 83 will finish college and two will achieve doctoral degrees.
According to Antonio Esquibel, keynote speaker at East Carolina University’s first conference on Latino issues, “Those are numbers we can improve on.”
The Oct. 24 conference, “Building Leadership for Latino Access to Education,” was organized by ECU’s Office of Special Initiatives and the Latino Conference Planning Committee.
It brought together experts in the field of Latino education, as well as leaders in the eastern North Carolina Latino community and ECU students, faculty and staff to discuss ways to improve access to higher education for Latino students.
Esquibel, professor emeritus at Metropolitan State College of Denver, called this issue “ a national imperative.”
As Latino populations grow in North Carolina and across the United States, he said, the number of Latino high school graduates will increase at rates faster than any other group.
“If the Latino students are going to be the students of the future, we have to prepare them for the jobs of the future,” Esquibel said, adding that many of those jobs will require a college degree.
In their quest for higher education, Latino students often face obstacles in the form of language and cultural barriers, lack of parental support, inadequate preparation and lack of information and finances.
“New leadership” will be needed to address these challenges, Esquibel said. He applauded efforts being made by ECU to lead the discussion.
“I’m very impressed with East Carolina University, especially with the initiatives that you are starting,” he said. “You have a great corps of people to carry this forward.”
Marilyn Sheerer, ECU provost and senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs, said ECU hopes to do more to support Latino students. “We know some of the work that we need to do. This conference today, I think, will kick off those conversations, and I look forward to seeing the outcome,” she said.
Juvencio Rocha Peralta, president of the Association of Mexicans in North Carolina, said he was pleased to see ECU engaged. “I’m so proud to see that people care about the issue of education and understand its importance as a key to success in our future communities,” he said.
Following the keynote address, ECU faculty and outside experts led discussions on the Latino student experience, the path to college, migrant education, parent participation, community engagement and access to healthcare.
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