Chicano Youth Leadership re-instills Chicano pride in students

Julissa Rangel

Juniors Adrian Contreras, Andrés Perkins and Mariana Sifuentes attend the Chicano Youth Leadership Program at Camp Hess Kramer from April 6 – 8

Empowerment, confidence, pride in their Latinx roots and a new understanding of the Chicanx movement are just a few of the concepts student participants learned at the annual three-day Chicano Youth Leadership Conference.

Each April, the Sal Castro Foundation, named for the late Chicano educator and activist, offers an annual camp to Chicano/Latinx students in underprivileged communities to help them find programs and possible colleges to attend. Various colleges representatives, Latinx speakers and counselors meet with students at Camp Hess Kramer in Malibu to discuss possible careers, scholarships and majors with high school juniors and sophomores. This year, juniors Adrian Contreras, Andrés Perkins and Mariana Sifuentes attended the rigorous conference, gaining new knowledge of college requirements and the application process.

“Most of the day consisted of listening to speakers and then splitting off into our designated groups to discuss activities,” Contreras said. “The speakers were very interesting and each taught a different part of Chicano/Latino history.”

Besides college prep, participants watched the 2006 movie “Walkout,” which documented the 1968 East Los Angeles high schoolwalkouts, attended concerts and learned cultural dances and background on the Chicanx Movement.

“At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go,” junior Andrés Perkins said. “I’m not Mexican or Mexican-American so I was afraid I’d be outcasted at the camp and even thought about backing out. I’m glad I didn’t because it really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The attendees, dressed in navy blue shirts and name tags hanging from their necks, spent the three days attending informative workshops as part of the Recruitment Fair, where representatives from colleges like California State University Northridge (CSUN) provided the campers with insight and tips for applying to college as a Latinx student.

Contreras agrees that applying for college seems much less intimidating after having attended the sessions and is now even considering CSUN for its diverse student body and vast selection of majors.

“Walking away from the conference I can say that I’m proud of my Chicano/Latino background and I am not only looking forward to attending college but also coming back to the camp in 4-5 years to volunteer as a counselor,” Contreras said.