This was the message to more than 300 students who gathered Feb. 21 for a day of community building, college preparedness training, and cross-cultural communication at the first annual International Youth Leadership Conference.
The Marshall Campus was full of excitement as young men and women, representing all nine high schools and more than 80 languages, filled the auditorium and classrooms to listen to PPS staff and community leaders, share their stories and make clear that they have an important role to play in Oregon's future.
Tap your inner strength
Keynote speakers Francisco Lόpez, executive director, CAUSA Oregon; Lou Radja, CEO of Lou Radja Enterprises, Dr. Doris McEwan, deputy director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Oregon Education Investment Board, and Tamam Waritu, Jefferson High School and Harvard University graduate, exhorted students to band together and tap into their inner strength to work for positive and lasting change in their communities.
Lou Radja summed it up in an old African saying from his native Democratic Republic of Congo, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
Workshops cover leadership and more
Students attended workshops focusing on higher education, leadership, and intercultural communication. They were inspired by entrepreneurs and civic leaders who had lived the immigrant experience and the students in turn inspired the adults with their own stories of struggle and triumph.
In a student panel entitled “I speak,” conference attendees shared stories of being the sole point of contact between their immigrant families/communities and the dominant culture. Whether providing childcare for their siblings, serving as translator for family members during doctor visits, or paying the bills for illiterate parents, many of these students already have years experience in service before even entering high school.
The day ended with international music and programs from Crianças de Zumbi, the Franklin High School Vietnamese Association; Anju Bharati, a solo dancer from Cleveland High School; the Madison High School Pacific Islander Girls, and Lol-be Grupo Yucatan. The students were also treated to an African fashion show from Cleveland High School.
ESL Director Vân Truong summed up the conference: "Students had a platform to share their powerful voices, to harness their potential and perhaps view their future in a new light. Our emerging bilingual students now understand that they are already the global citzens that PPS is striving to produce."
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