The annual Latino Role Models conference will return for its 11th year—in a virtual format—this Saturday, Feb. 27, from 9:30am-1pm.
The free event was founded and is still organized by Senderos, a nonprofit that aims to create successful pathways for the Latinx community of Santa Cruz County through art and education. Despite the pandemic, the organization has continued working toward its mission this past year.
“We are still alive. We are even stronger,” said Senderos director Fe Silva. “We have to keep going, do what we have always done.”
Latino Role Models (LRM) is focused on county students sixth grade to college and their families, and is presented in Spanish with English translation. Various speakers, including professionals and college students share their education journeys. Workshops on related topics will be presented by Cabrillo College staff and other local partners.
This year’s keynote speaker will be Dr. Manuel Pastor, a distinguished professor of sociology and American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California, where he directs the Equity Research Institute. He will speak on the topic of “Racial Justice: Education as a Tool for Liberation.”
Other speakers include Supervisor Luis Alejo, Consul General of Mexico Alejandra Maria Gabriela Bologna Zubikarai, news anchor Erandi García and many others.
LRM began as a small gathering in the cafeteria at Branciforte Middle School, where Silva still works. Interest in the event grew every year, and eventually it moved to larger venues at Harbor High School and then Cabrillo College. But due to the pandemic, this year’s event will be held on Zoom.
“We knew we still had to do it. The main focus of Senderos is to inspire our young, student community to pursue education,” Silva said. “We believe and we know that education is the key to succeed.”
Silva said that it has been a challenge organizing LRM and other virtual events, as many people are not familiar with or have the technology. They have been reaching out to families to try and help since things shut down last March. Senderos is asking for the community, especially younger and more tech-savvy people, to help their families log in and navigate LRM on Saturday.
“We are still having plenty of struggles learning all of these technical, electronic ways of communicating,” she said. “But when we have challenges in our lives is when we grow and develop more resilience. That’s what we need to learn from all these challenges. Instead of feeling down, we should learn and keep going.”
Looking ahead, Senderos is planning to hold more events virtually during the pandemic, including their biggest one of the year, Vive Oaxaca Guelaguetza. Silva thanked the community for its support—including the donors who’ve helped keep them afloat during the pandemic.
“We are so grateful,” she said. “The arts are alive, education is alive… We are moving forward.”
Latino Role Models is free but registration is required. For information visit scsenderos.org and follow on Facebook.