OPSU HALO Students Return Renewed
Shown here, from left to right, are eight of the HALO students who attended the conference in Chicago, including Tony Mendoza, Ricardo Ramirez, Perla Ibarra, Karen Esquivel, Jaqueline Frias, Natalia Baez, Jazmin Frias, and Dalia Estrada. Not pictured are Alex Anchondo and Judith Torres.
For Oklahoma Panhandle State University student Ricardo Ramirez, the United Hispanic Leadership Institute conference he attended in Chicago Feb. 14-17 was a life-changing experience.
Ramirez, a transfer student from East Los Angeles College, said, "The conference woke me up to the fact that I have choices and I don't have to settle for what is handed to me. I learned education is the key, and I hope to find a way to encourage others to get an education."
He went on to say that he plans to become more involved in OPSU's chapter of the Hispanic American Leadership Organization (HALO) and is currently running for vice president. Using his boundless enthusiasm, he plans to recruit more HALO members and get the word out that it is not just for Hispanic students. The junior psychology major would like to continue his education after graduating from OPSU and eventually counsel children. Ramirez also serves as the equipment manager for the Aggie football team.
Natalia Baeza, a nursing and criminal justice major, also returned home with a fresh perspective. She took to heart the message she received from speaker Marisel Herrera, who said it doesn't matter how long it takes to reach a goal because you will still be the same age whether you do it or not. She also enjoyed poet Joaquin Zihuatanejo, who encouraged the audience to embrace other cultures so that together, great things can be accomplished.
Dalia Estrada plans on a career in athletic training and also liked Zihuatanejo's message as well as another poet's, Natasha Carrizosa. The freshman said she learned in the workshop they led, "Writing Wrongs: Using Our Collective Voices to Change the World," that poetry unites everyone no matter what the culture. She would like to start a sorority that focuses on Latinas but is open to anyone who would like to join.
Jaqueline Frias also took to heart a message from Herrera and commented, "Latinas tend to take care of everyone else first, but Marisel pointed out I need to take care of myself first and then take care of others." She also liked speaker Roy Juarez's message to stay hungry and stay humble and that while it is fine to want better for yourself, give back and bring those underneath you along. The nursing major from Perryton, Texas, plans to eventually enter medical school.
Tony Mendoza, a California football transfer, said he was not initially impressed with the conference, but then was suddenly "startstruck" by Dolores Huerta, who worked closely with Ceser Chavez. Although he had heard of Chavez's civil rights work all his life, it finally became real when he realized that movement still lives today. The junior from Tustin hopes to attend graduate school and would like to counsel teens.
Jazmin Frias plans to teach art one day and she said liked the message from activist Randy Parraz — if you are dissatisfied, do something about it! She also appreciated hearing that she does not have to strive for just a high school diploma or even a bachelor's degree, but everyone can go for a master's or even a Ph.D.
Perla Ibarra liked CoolSpeak speaker Ernesto Mejia, who said that those who actually envision a goal are more likely to achieve it because they know what they want to accomplish. The sophomore from Guymon is finishing her associate degree in nursing and then plans to finish a bachelor's degree in nursing.
Also from Guymon, Karen Esquivel is an English education major currently exploring which age group she would like to teach. She also mentioned Herrera as someone to look up to, explaining, "Marisel is a single mom but remains open to love. She raised her son alone but earned a degree and teaches at Arizona State." She also admired Nely Galán, an entrepreneur and motivational speaker who said, "Don't buy shoes, buy buildings." In other words, invest in long-term, more satisfying and hopefully profitable ventures.
Teri Mora, OPSU's director of Hispanic Student Services, added that she enjoyed Herrera's message "Failing Forward" about allowing failure to become part of the learning process. She also pointed out that another of her students' favorite speakers, Juan Andrade, is the only American citizen who has earned a Presidential Medal of Honor from both Mexico and the United States. She hopes to bring him to the OPSU campus one day to speak.
Despite its name, the conference features a diverse group of people, including students from a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities. The 10 OPSU students brought back new leadership skills and a renewed determination to finish their own education and inspire others to reach their goals.