By Cheryl D’Mello
“It is so appropriate that this is Valentine’s Day. We have to tell our children we love them. All this work requires a lot of love,” said Robert Torres, the keynote speaker at the Hispanic Community Education Forum, “The Family: The Promise for our Future”. Sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, Cleveland State University and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), the event held at Lincoln-West High School in Cleveland on February 14, 2009, drew about 200 Hispanic students, parents and teachers in Cleveland.
The Forum had a special relevance at a time when Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic group and yet are underrepresented in higher education.
“You are in an educational crisis in Cleveland,” Torres pointed out, referring to low high school graduation rates of Latino students. The current Director of Development, for the city of Canton, Torres, the son of migrant workers from Mexico whose parents did not speak English, urged parents to push their children to aim high.
“Everything is possible when we work together as a family,” he said, tracing the story of his success as one of 13 children who grew up in a home with no running water or indoor plumbing. “My mother gave me pride in being a Latino.” His only role model was in a book – Henry Cisneros, who he was to meet years later in the White House. “If you don’t have a role model now, find one, identify one. If someone is not helping you now, find someone to help you,” he urged.
Dr. Donna M. Whyte, Director of the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at CSU welcomed the audience along with Natividad Pagan from CMSD. Roberto Chavez, Coordinator of Multicultural Programs and Retention at CSU introduced the keynote speaker.
The program included workshops on financial aid and scholarships, career exploration and role of the family; staying in school, a student panel, adolescent interventions and enhancing academics in the home. Specialists from the Cleveland Scholarship Program and CMSD, students from CSU and Oberlin College addressed parents and students while children were kept entertained with art workshops by Latino artist Hector Castellanos and Cathy Lewis-Wright from the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Children from CMSD schools provided entertainment with dances and skits in traditional costumes from Puerto Rico and Mexico. There were raffles and prizes given by CSU. Breakfast and lunch were provided by Lelolai Bakery & Cafe. Information about free tutoring and other area resources in the Cleveland area was available at various tables.
Article originally appeared in The Cauldron on February 23, 2009.