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America Ferrera, best known for her role as Betty Suarez in the television series “Ugly Betty,” came to Weber State University to speak to hundreds of youth at the annual Latino in Action conference on achieving her dreams and how they can achieve theirs too. People from 12 high schools, totaling 2,000 volunteers and students, attended the event on Thursday in the Browning Center.
Latinos in Action is a nonprofit organization working to build future Latino leaders by having high school students tutor elementary school students.
“They want to reward those kids towards the middle or end of the year, so they put this conference together,” said Eulogio Alejandre, WSU Education Access & Outreach’s Student to Student coordinator. “It is to recognize the efforts of all those students spending time tutoring kids in elementary schools.”
The conference’s theme this year was “My Duality is My Reality” to celebrate the students’ accomplishments and promote college attendance.
“We go into high schools and junior highs, and we set up a class that is a leadership service learning class under the college prep umbrella,” said Jose Enriquez, executive director of Latinos in Action. “. . . We have workshops and keynote speakers that come and motivate them and allow them to learn more about college.”
Some of the workshops at the conference were Youth Empowerment, WSU Admissions/Concurrent Enrollment, Careers in Web and Visual Design, and Getting More Involved in High School.
“I think it is really helpful; it brings the Latino culture closer together. It shows us that there is hope to go farther,” said Ashley Ayala, an attendee from Jerome High School in Idaho. “I thought America Ferrera was really inspiring. To see someone that went from really low go really high up and succeed, it gives you hope for a better future.”
Ferrera discussed her upbringing, particularly her experiences that shaped her to be who she is today, such as producing two movies, one of them being “Real Women have Curves.”
As a freshman in college, Ferrera realized she wanted to do more in life, and she began thinking that becoming an actress was a selfish profession, but then she spoke with one of her professors, who explained how he was mentoring a young Latina girl and how the movie “Real Women have Curves” gave him an outlet to talk with the girl’s parents about her attending college to build a life for herself. At that moment, Ferrera realized she had made a positive impact on someone else through her role in the film.
In her speech, Ferrera said she didn’t want anyone believing her life was a fairy tale, but that each one of the students in the audience could achieve anything they desired.
Eddy Ortega, a student from Jerome High School in Idaho, said he was interested to hear all the speeches and to know what the speakers have all gone through to get to where they are now.
“America’s speech, I liked it because the movie she was in, ‘Real Women have Curves’, portrayed how one girl’s life helped the professor to have a conversation with her parents regarding stuff that was relevant to that movie,” he said.
After Ferrera’s keynote speech, students migrated to the Shepherd Union Building, where they were able to go to booths and talk to college counselors.
“I think it is a wonderful opportunity to have all of our students from the surrounding areas come in and check out what Weber State has to offer, as well as other sponsors that came to campus,” said Margarita Vara, WSU Student Success Center staff member. “We have all kinds of different recourses, academic advisement, and whatever resources students need to progress and get through their college degree.”