Walla Walla High School GEAR UP partnered with Walla Walla Public Schools District (WWPS) to send twenty-eight Walla Walla High School students to the Latino/a Educational Advancement Program’s 2015 Conference held in Tacoma, WA on February 26 through 28. At the event, students heard inspirational stories from various Latina/o undergraduate students, graduate students, professionals, and keynote speaker Justice Mary Yu. Although all the speakers shared different life experiences, they all reminded our WaHi GEAR UP students that higher education is important and encouraged them to strive for that education.
Along with endorsing higher education, L.E.A.P Conference gave WaHi GEAR UP students the opportunity to visit the State Capitol Building in Olympia and meet their county’s representatives. During this meeting with the legislature, students presented a problem in the Walla Walla community they thought important. These students chose to address the lack of youth recreational resources as positive alternatives for de-stressing and community involvement. These students also elected Stephanie Reyes (‘15) and Miguel Baza (‘17) as their speakers during their meeting with House Representatives Marueen Walsh and Terry Nealy. While Reyes presented the students’ concerns about extracurricular activities, Baza shared his personal story to highlight why this issue is important to himself and other students. Although Walsh and Leary did not guarantee any projects addressing the students’ concerns they did encourage the students seek out community organizations, empowering these students to create change in their communities.
On the last day of the conference, L.E.A.P. organized two sessions of ten workshops that taught students about the Chicana/o movement, advocacy through storytelling, learning leadership skills, thriving in college, and many other inspirational and motivational subjects. Students even learned how to salsa and tango before the closing ceremony began. Through these workshops, L.E.A.P. provided cultural awareness as well as leadership skills and college readiness.
For most of these students this trip was their first time being in the western part of the state, which made for a perfect opportunity to visit college some campuses these students generally would not have the chance of visiting. Because of Olympia’s proximity to Lacey, we scheduled a campus tour and visit at St. Martin’s University after students met with their representatives. On the next day, on the way back to Walla Walla, students visited the UW Seattle campus and experienced dining at one of the campus’ cafes.
To ensure the experiences and knowledge gained by these twenty-eight students from WaHi was transmitted and shared with their parents, WaHi GEAR UP provide a space for student presentations and invited families to attend WaHi GEAR UP’s L.E.A.P. Parent Night on March 11. Students spoke on various topics during this event. Some spoke about what they learned and what they loved about the conference. Others gave a detailed description of the conference agenda and events. Still others spoke about their new found motivation through, inspiration from, and gratitude for all their families and community have done to set these students up for an educated future. To close out our event, GEAR UP Student Ambassador Gaby Rodriguez gave a presentation on college and career readiness. Students all came away from the experience with valuable college readiness skills, leadership skills and added to their skill set for post secondary success!
Students included in the LEAP Conference from Walla Walla High School represented all 3 grants; HOH3, HOH2 and OVP2.