Oct. 14--CHEYENNE -- Latina girls have the power to decide their futures for themselves.
So say organizers of the 12th annual Wyoming Latina Youth Conference, which runs Oct. 18 and 19 at several local venues.
"We want them to go away with that power of choice," conference founder Ann Esquibel-Redman said. "They gain some insight that they have the power to rule their own lives (and) they have the power to guide themselves toward an education."
The conference is open to girls in fifth through 12th grades, and there are still spots open for those who want to attend.
Though the conference specifically addresses issues in the Latina community, it is open to other ethnic backgrounds, Esquibel-Redman said.
"There are many young women who have learned about our conference who are not of that ethnic background (but) who have friends attending and want to attend. We don't turn them away," she said. "All students in those grade groups struggle like Latinas do."
Speakers and conference classes cover topics like the importance of education, bullying prevention, self-defense, leadership and culture, organizers said.
The conference also gives girls access to role models that older members of the Latina population say they lacked.
At this year's conference, there will be sessions taught by University of Wyoming professor Cecelia Aragon and several college students.
"It's a great team-building opportunity for girls to just be around other girls and make friends and learn how to be positive with each other and work with each other," committee member Jennifer Cruz said. "It's a good example of encouraging each other."
But one of the main goals is just to let students know that they have the ability to make their own choices and control their own lives, she said.
"There's still a stigma in the Latin community that the woman's place is in the home," she said. "We're really trying to encourage independence and careers and get out there n you can be a professional, be a CEO, you can go to college, you don't have to settle for less, because that's what the stereotype is."
Issues like teen pregnancy and domestic violence are present in the Latina community, organizers said. But the conference gives girls ways to support themselves.
"They (can) go back to their communities and say, 'I don't have to be that statistic. I can move forward,'" committee member Cindy Rivera said. "Some of the girls that come, they're the first ones to graduate from high school. If they can see that they can go beyond that, then we've done our job."
Students participating also will gain information they can take back to their communities, Esquibel-Redman said.
"Because we target young women, what they take from this conference they will be taking into their homes, into their schools and communities, and eventually benefit the state of Wyoming," she said.
If you go:
What: The Power of Choice Wyoming Latina Youth Conference
Where: Outside events take place at the Cheyenne Holiday Inn and Cheyenne Civic Center, but conference workshops are at Laramie County Community College.
When: Oct. 18-19
Cost: Registration for the opening banquet, all conference events and the concert is $30 for students, and late registration is $35.
To register: Visit www.wyominglatinayouthconference.com.
(c)2013 Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.)
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