More than 80 Latino middle school students will explore – and most importantly build – their knowledge about going to college and the expectation that earning a degree is an attainable goal through the workshops and activities offered at the Annual Latino Youth Summit April 12-13.

The Seventh Annual Latino Youth Summit (LYS) is a collaborative effort by UW-Madison Pathways to Educational Achievement; Centro Hispano Community Center; the Office of the Vice Provost & Chief Diversity Officer (OVPCDO) Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement (DDEEA); and the Latino Youth Summit Steering Committee, a group of committed members from the Latino and UW communities. The two-day On My Way to College event will offer more than 35 sessions on campus and in community locations.

“Students are brought to campus for in-depth workshops and cultural development activities,” said Philip Denis, the Latino American Pathways campus and community liaison. “During this event, students begin to understand the importance of their education given that every workshop and activity is centered on completing high school and going to college.”

The majority of activities on both Wednesday, April 12, and Thursday, April 13, will take place in the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon Street, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. On Thursday, the summit will move to Centro Hispano Community Center to close the event with all participants and their families uniting to enjoy a meal and celebrate with Bucky Badger. Some parents also will have the opportunity to participate in their own professional development lead by the YWCA there.

Emphasis on cultural development plays a critical role in engaging Latino youth to think about higher education, Denis said. UW-Madison faculty and staff, community leaders, and educators lead academic and culturally relevant workshops throughout the event.

“Although it can be challenging to focus groups of middle school students on any one thing for two whole days, the activities session leaders – who are all volunteers – bring to teach, entertain and inform is key,” Denis said. By involving parents, the summit also emphasizes how preparation for higher education is a relevant family and community effort for Latinos, he added.

Getting to attend the summit is also competitive based on enrollment limits, so being there can’t be taken for granted. As a result, students thoroughly enjoy the time with peers who have similar questions and challenges, as well as a common cultural background, Denis added.

The event’s focus on building intention and enthusiasm with the students, in addition to providing tools for encouragement for parents and places to find support in the Latino community, has drawn praise from participants, Denis said. Both students and parents say that as a result of attending the summit, they have more interest in college, better understand the steps to preparing for and applying to college, and learned how to put the college journey into a cultural perspective for Latino families and their students by working together.

“Prior to this, (my daughter) said she didn’t plan to attend college. Now she says she will…thanks to you,” a parent participant said.

Volunteers are always welcomed. For more information on how to get involved, contact UW-Madison Pathways Campus and Community Liaison Philip Denis at [email protected] or (608) 263-0332.