César Chávez conference empowers students, families

Event encourages parents to be stronger advocates for their children’s education
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Cindy Lopes, a first generation American, was the first member in her Hispanic family to graduate college.

She majored in journalism, a subject matter she learned about as a teenager.

“I attended an event and a woman speaker asked, ‘Do you like to write, do you like to talk to people?’” Lopes said. “And a light bulb went off in my head.”

But there was a little problem.

“My parents didn’t know about this industry or how to navigate (applying) to college,” she said. “It’s a very complicated system and everybody needs help.”

That’s why she, her husband Rick and their two children plan to attend the 11th annual César Chávez Youth Leadership Conference Saturday, March 19, at Robert C. Cooley Middle School in Roseville.

The Hispanic Empowerment Association of Roseville, Latino Leadership Council and Cooley Latino Student Club are sponsoring this leadership conference, arts, education, health and job fair geared for students in sixth to 12th grade and their parents.

This free event features college recruiters and information designed to empower families to become stronger advocates for their children’s education, said organizer and Roseville City School District board member Rene Aguilera.

The conference is aimed at building strong, healthy communities by encouraging the academic achievement of youth.

“We hope students will leave the conference understanding that continuing their education beyond high school is the key to expanding career opportunities,” Aguilera said. “We also want them to understand their dreams are well within their own reach.”

Parents can learn about financial aid, scholarships, helping their kids prepare for college entrance exams and fostering leadership skills in their children. Students have the chance to attend career workshops on law, poetry, journalism, nursing, teaching, social welfare, art, music and dance, medicine, law enforcement and professional sports.

“It is such a wonderful experience for young people,” Cindy Lopes said. “They get upfront with professionals, learn about careers they would probably never consider otherwise and they get to ask questions.”

Her 17-year-old daughter Samantha has attended the conference a few times. Last year, the Whitney High School senior talked to Placer County Supervisor Jack Duran about the legal profession. He’s a business attorney.

“His insight was very helpful to me better understanding (more) about law,” she said.

Samantha Lopes is “weighing her options” when it comes to choosing a major once she starts college in the fall. She applied to California state colleges and a few private universities.

During previous conferences, she also watched “Nightmare on Puberty Street,” a live production by Kaiser Permanente, and Aztec dancing. Her 12-year-old brother Joseph Lopes attended last year’s event. The Cooley Middle School 7th grader wants to enter the field of technology when he gets older.

This year’s event will feature several speakers and presenters from organizations such as the Sacramento Central Labor Council, California Teachers Association, University of California, Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Mexican American Legal Defense Education Fund and American GI Forum.

Also present will be representatives from McGeorge School of Law, Puente Program at Sierra College, Planned Parenthood, League of United Latin American Citizens, California Latino School Boards Association, California Association of Bilingual Education, Labor Council of Latin American Advancement, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and National Council of La Raza.

The conference commemorates César Chávez Day. As cofounder and president of the United Farm Workers, Chávez organized farm workers from the 1960s until his death at age 66 in 1993.

In 2000, Gov. Gray Davis signed S.B. 984, asking that school districts give an hour of instruction in all schools around Chávez’s March 31 birthday about his lessons of non-violence, self-sacrifice and social justice. Students are asked to engage in public service as part of the César Chávez Day of Service and Learning.

As Chávez himself said: “Real education should consist of drawing the goodness and the best out of our own students. What better books can there be than the book of humanity?”

Sena Christian can be reached at


César Chávez Youth Leadership Conference and Education, Art, Job and Health Fair

When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 19

Where: Robert C. Cooley Middle School, 9300 Prairie Woods Way in Roseville

Cost: Free

Info: To pre-register, visit

Tentative Schedule:
8 a.m. Chorizo con huevo breakfast
9 a.m. Opening ceremonies
9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Parent workshop by Carlos Mayo of California Association of Bilingual Education
9:30 a.m. “Nightmare on Puberty Street” by Kaiser Permanente
11 - 11:40 a.m. Workshops I
11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Workshops II
12:30 - 2:15 p.m. Lunch and Legacy of César Chávez Talent Show
2:15 - 3:45 p.m. Parent workshop presented by Carlos Maya of CABE
2:15 - 3 p.m. Workshops III
3:05 - 3:45 p.m. Workshops IV