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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Jairo Canaveral, a Lincoln Financial senior analyst, talks Tuesday with Snider High School senior Marie Abundez at the Latinos Count College and Career Pathways Student Conference at Purdue University Fort Wayne.

  • Ignacio Silva, a recruiter for the Indiana Army National Guard, explains how students can find a career path in the military.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018 1:00 am

Latinos guide Latino students

Event lets youth talk with those who can relate

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Mauricio Vergara didn't hesitate to introduce himself Tuesday as Northrop High School senior Benjamin Walley joined his table at Purdue University Fort Wayne.

“Hello, I'm Mo,” said Vergara, an associate product manager at Fort Wayne Metals.

Elsewhere in the International Ballroom, other Latino youth met other Latino mentors, who represented such employers as NIPSCO, Lincoln Financial, Purdue University Fort Wayne and Parkview Health. The conversations were a key element of the Latinos Count College and Career Pathways Student Conference.

“We believe it is important that Latino youth have a chance to talk about college and careers with someone who looks like them,” said Steve Corona, executive director of Latinos Count.

The nonprofit group has welcomed Allen County youth to the event about five years, Corona said. This year, he said, 178 students from the five Fort Wayne Community high schools, New Haven High School and Bishop Luers High School attended.

Corona had a message for the students: “I want you to begin thinking about your high school exit strategy,” adding the conference is designed to expose them to various paths after high school.

Wayne sophomore Alex Alvizures was among the students who visited with representatives from Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 166. As others talkedaround tables, Alvizures got a hands-on lesson about joining copper piping.

Northrop guidance counselor Cleve Million watched the activity, noting he enjoys seeing students open up to the mentors. The connections made Tuesday could lead to “all kinds of possibilities,” he said.

Million and others also said it's good for students to talk with adults who share their culture and other experiences, such as being the first in their family to attend college or encountering similar barriers.

“They can relate to me, and I can relate to them,” said Vergara, who grew up in Decatur.

Vergara told students there are many ways to be successful after high school, but the key is to develop skills. As one group of students left his table, he offered advice.

“Remember,” he said, “get involved.”