Students from the Eastern region of the school district attended the first-ever student empowerment conference at Méndez High School in Boyle Heights, an effort to offer resources and information to prospective college students in East Los Angeles.
The event at the end of October was organized by the Go East LA initiative at Cal State LA, in cooperation with LAUSD superintendent Mónica García and the East Los Angeles Community College.
“Students matter,” said García, who attended the event. “Student leadership is essential in changing the world, and we want to support all of the work that students are doing in their school and community.
García represents District 2, which includes all of the Eastside, Koreatown and parts of downtown and other neighborhoods. She is currently running for City Council in District 14, which includes Boyle Heights.
Fifteen-year old Daisy, a sophomore at Hilda Solís Learning Academy in East Los Angeles, said she first learned of the event via her school counselor. “It helped open my mind a lot,” she said, explaining the conference informed her of many beneficial programs.
Kenya, also a 15-year-old sophomore from Hilda Solís , said the conference helped her put things in perspective, in regards to college. She said that through the workshops she learned about “financial aid and self-love…they [are] equally important.”
The conference was also open to parents.
“It is very important to give parents the power and [other tools] to our children,” said María Torres, a parent at Méndez High School. “I believe it is [a good way] to motivate and give a calling to these students… to come, to see, to know about these events.”
Arlene Chévez was among volunteers who handed out lunches and bottles of water to attendees. She said the conference was meant “to help high school students find their way to college and to facilitate that as much as possible by providing food and health benefits as well as financial information to better empower the students to continue their education.”
Soledad López, another parent at Méndez, agreed. “It is very important to go out and vote to make yourself count,” López said.
Chávez said she volunteered for the event because she wanted to help Eastside students to have an easier time in college and as independent adults.
The event offered a variety of workshops for students to take advantage. There was pop and hip pop music playing throughout the event and even a raffle that included prices like backpacks.
Volunteer Nataly Rocha, a Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School graduate, said that the choice of Méndez for the conference was symbolic, since the Boyle Heights high school was named after two Southern California civil rights pioneers. “The history of Mendez tells us that… people of color have had to fight in Los Angeles and just all over the country… for getting an equitable education and access to education,” Rocha said. “We know Felícitas y Gonzalo Méndez fought for desegregation of classrooms and schools.”
García said she had previously hosted similar conferences at James A. Garfield High School in East LA and Ramón C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts in downtown Los Angeles, but the one at Méndez was the first one done in alliance with GO East LA, which stands for Great Outcomes East Los Angeles. García said the next conference would probably take place in Central East Los Angeles, but no date or location has been set.
The GO East LA: A Pathway for College and Career Success initiative was created in May 2014 to promote greater academic outcomes for all East L.A. students by focusing on college awareness, preparation, completion, and career readiness, according to its website.