About 200 students from around San Juan County gathered in the Henderson Fine Arts Center for a day of workshops, activities and campus tours.
The program was presented by the Engaging Latino Communities for Education, called Enlance, as an initiative inspired by students and staff in the organization who wanted to create a larger pipeline between colleges and high schools, Regional Director Mabel Gonzalez said.
"It concentrates on education but also touches on issues that are crucial to getting an education," Gonzalez said. "(Issues) like health, immigration and getting your parents' involvement. That's the key we brought to the workshops."
Keynote speaker Lee Frances traveled from San Marcos, Texas, to help encourage students to work for post-secondary school success.
"There is a range of college experiences and each one holds such potential and such an amazing capacity for change and growth and learning as Latino students," Frances said. "I think that's what holds me to the work, why I wanted to come out here."
With 10 workshops spread across two sets of sessions, the goal this year was to bring in more partners to host the workshops, Gonzalez said.
"We have a larger amount of partners, not only from the community but also the Albuquerque area including students from (the University) of New Mexico," Gonzalez said.
It was Bloomfield High School senior Marco Serna's fourth year attending the event as part of the school's Latino leadership class.
Serna said he has learned a lot about achieving a college degree and how to start his own post high school path of education.
"I feel way more confident. Before this, I didn't know what classes I needed to take and I didn't know where to start," Serna said.
Serna is planning on attending San Juan College and after receiving his associates degree, will be transferring to New Mexico Tech to continue learning about the field of engineering.
The workshops covered a wide variety of topics including financial aid, public speaking and youth leadership. A tour of the college's School of Energy was organized for students who have indicated an interest in the area based on previous surveys.
A number of workshops were hosted by organizations like New Mexico Dreamers in Action and the Men of Color Initiative, programs dedicated to educating Latino and all students of color about issues with immigration and reversing the increase in high school dropout rates.
In the workshop titled "Realize Your Dream: Immigrant Students and College in New Mexico," students learned about options they have to receive in-state tuition and state funding for college.
Italia Aranda and Jaen Ugalde from New Mexico Dreamers in Action led a group of students in understanding the Dream Act, the Chinese Inclusion Law and comprehensive immigration reform. The pair also spoke about state Senate Bill 582 and how the bill allows some undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at state colleges if they meet certain criteria.
Joshua Kellogg may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 564-4627. Follow him on Twitter @jkelloggdt