Garden Grove’s Latinos Unidos Conference prepares young leaders for success

Garden Grove students outside Cal State Fullerton's Student Union

Garden Grove Unified students gather outside Cal State Fullerton’s Student Union for a photo during the seventh annual Latino Unidos Conference. The event provide leadership training to about 300 participants.

More than 300 students recently attended the Garden Grove Unified School District’s seventh annual Latino Unidos Conference on the campus of Cal State Fullerton.

Organized by district-level Latinos Unidos student board members, the Jan. 11 event provided leadership training to set young people up for academic and personal success.

Middle and high schoolers — and some elementary students — got to attend a networking fair and exchange business cards with area professionals. They also learned about community resources and Latino organizations, and they were introduced to potential part-time job opportunities after high school.

“This event is preparing the next generation of Latinx leaders with important tools for lifelong success,” said GGUSD school board President Walter Muneton, who presented on overcoming obstacles. “Students leave the conference feeling empowered about issues they are passionate about, proud of their shared cultural background, and hopeful about their futures.”

Five students in Latino Unidos T-shirtsA campus tour was provided by representatives from CSUF students from Hermanos and Hermanas Unidos. In addition, the Garden Grove visitors attended workshops led by Latinos Unidos alumni on topics such as goal setting, Latinx scholarships, biliteracy, social media and mental health and college pathways.

The event was sponsored by Orange County United Way, one of the district’s longtime supporters of Latinos Unidos.

Dr. Lorena Sanchez, GGUSD’s assistant superintendent of Educational Services, opened up the conference by defining the essence of what the Latinos Unidos club stands for and explaining the foundation on which it was created. Students also heard from Dr. Feliza Ortiz-Licon from the California State Board of Education, GGUSD board members, and Sergio Contreras of Orange County United Way.

In Garden Grove, more than 50 percent of students are Hispanic/Latino, more than 75 percent are socioeconomically disadvantaged and more than 80 percent have a second language background.

The Latinos Unidos program was launched to provide a unique system of supports for students through tutoring, mentorship, community service, college preparation and cultural events. Each of the district’s eight high schools, as well as several intermediate and elementary schools, have active Latinos Unidos clubs supported by advisors.

A Latinos Unidos Cultural Night has been planned for 5:30 p.m. on March 13 at Los Amigos High School. The event will feature food, activities and performances.