DePauw University hosted the annual Latinxs Leadership Conference for the first time in its history; more than 250 high school and college students from around the state of Indiana gathered on March 3.
For the past 18 years, the mission of the Latinxs Leadership Conference has been to celebrate the uniqueness of Latinx students in a forum setting that also encourages Latinx student development and empowerment in Indiana’s colleges and high schools. Although this conference is based out of the Latino Enhancement Cooperative at Indiana University Bloomington, it travels every year to different colleges, typically IU satellite colleges such as Indiana University Purdue University, Fort Wayne.
It is unusual for small, private colleges to host this conference; however, DePauw received the chance after another school had to withdraw its bid due to unforeseen challenges.
The Latino Enhancement Cooperative contacted the Associate Dean of Intercultural Life, Jeannette Johnson-Licon, who knows several representatives from the organization. “When IU called, told me that they were in a bind, and asked if we could help them by being the conference hosts,” said Johnson-Licon, “I spoke with Myrna Hernandez and Alan Hill and received their support to be become the hosts for this year’s conference.”
Because there was not a full year to prepare and fundraise for the conference, Johnson-Licon reached out to several alumni as well as DePauw faculty and staff to be speakers and help with workshop discussions.
A few of the alumni that presented included Chanelle Pearson ’05, a New York-based filmmaker, producer and community archivist and Juan Pedroza ’03, an immigration specialist, Ph.D. candidate in sociology and graduate fellow at Stanford's Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity.
Additionally, many DePauw students volunteered for the conference. “JJL, who's my Posse mentor, contacted me about emceeing three workshops with Chanelle Pearson. . . . She [JJL] just kind of wanted me to navigate those workshops with her [Pearson],” said junior Greisy Genao. Some of the workshop sessions included Latinas in the Media, Conversations Across Race, and ¿Qué Pasta? Latinos in STEM.
Attendees had positive reflections by the end of the Latino/a/x Leadership Conference.
“I really didn’t think about coming, but it’s a good thing I did because it was really interesting and motivating and inspiring,” said high school senior Daniella Lopez. “It [the conference] encourages words to keep going and actually not get myself put down by all the stereotypes going around.”
“It’s just a really nice time to spend with people with similar identities and similar concerns as your own, especially with this political climate right now. And it’s just nice to see people from different backgrounds but similar identities,” said Nitza Duran from IU on her takeaway from the event.
Johnson-Licon was proud that DePauw was able to host the event, and said “Conferences like these help students from around the state meet others who are going through similar experiences and build community.”