On Saturday, October 29, over 200 of our YES Prep high school students from our secondary campuses came together at YES Prep Brays Oaks Secondary to celebrate Latinx culture and heritage at our annual Latinx Leadership Summit. The summit has grown year after year and not only draws in students and staff from our campuses but also incredible Latinx leaders from the community with years of experience.
From the words of YES Prep CEO Mark DiBella, “It’s been exciting to see the Latinx Summit grow over the years. When we started there were maybe 30 to 40 kids and now today there were 250 kids invited to the summit. So it’s fun to watch our students grow more appreciation of their identities and cultures and also watch us as a system grow in how we support them.”
Spotlighting cultural appropriation vs appreciation
This year, one of the main focuses of the summit was reclaiming traditions. Latinx summit co-lead Natalie Garcia, director of student support at Brays Oaks Secondary, led a presentation with our summit attendees sharing about cultural appropriation and challenging students on what they consider to be an appreciation of one’s culture versus appropriation. Students learned that while some situations are clear cut one way or another, not all instances are as clear.
Panelists share about their Latinx experience
The summit also welcomed 18 Latinx panelists across various industries and occupations, including but not limited to two YES Prep Board of Directors, business executives, media professionals and more! In addition to the summit, several of our panelists were also able to connect with campuses afterwards. Officer Bertha Narvaez visited East End Secondary in the weeks that followed the summit and Maria Marcano, Enbridge’s senior project engineer, is partnering with North Central Secondary to bring a STEM presentation through the Texas Association for Minorities in Engineering (TAME) for our students. A comprehensive list of this year’s panelists can be found below.
From the beginning to the end, the event focused on the importance of the Latinx community and the pride that each student wears because of it. Chief External Officer Nella Urban-Garcia explained the importance of the Latinx summit, “The Latinx Leadership Summit is focused on bringing Latino-identifying students from across YES Prep together to build community, get access and listen to Latinx leaders from across Houston in different industries, and ultimately decide how they want to lead on their campuses and beyond. Part of fulfilling the YES Prep mission is not only being college ready, but also being secure in who you are in your identity and living lives of opportunity. This is an amazing opportunity for our students!”
Stole presentation, entertainment and community booths
In addition to the presentation and guest panels, the summit also included the annual special recognition of our Latinx seniors who each received a graduation stole representative of their Latinx roots. Aside from breakfast and lunch, attendees also had an opportunity to visit with the community organizations Jolt, Mi Familia Vota and Legacy Community health and enjoy a ballet folklorico performance by North Central seniors Gianelli Garcia and Jair Sanchez and music by fellow North Central students senior Alan Robles on guitar and freshman Alonso De Leon on accordion.
We want to thank all the staff that helped put this event together: Corina Alegria, Clarissa Fuentes, Margaret Goergen, Jessica Jamanca, Veronica Leah, Maria Lopez Garcia, Jesse Marmolejo, Mercedes McMillan, Margaret Moguel and Claudia Perez. As always, thanks to our returning summit co-leads Kimberly Gallegos, manager of program vendor operations; Natalie Garcia, director of student support at Brays Oaks Secondary; and Lilian Macias, resident principal at North Central Secondary. And a special thank you to our 2022 Student Affinity Summit corporate supporter Enbridge.
2022 Latinx Summit Recap
2022 Latinx Leadership Summit panelists:
- Noe Ballesa, Comcast Learning
- Eric Calderon, President & CEO, LK Industries; Vice chair, board of directors, YES Prep
- Luly Castillo, Global Marketing Manager, Halliburton; Board of directors, YES Prep
- Charisma Edwards, Microsoft
- Crystal Gamboa SAP Consultant
- Dayana Iza, Youth Organizer, Mi Familia Vota
- Veronica Leah, Resident principal, YES Prep Southeast Elementary
- Maria Marcano, Senior Project Engineer, Enbridge
- Antonio Marin, Chief Information Officer, USMLD-Equip, LLC
- Luis Mena, Chief Financial Officer, YES Prep Public Schools
- Mayra Moreno, Journalist, ABC 13
- Jose “Tony” Muñoz, Chief Talent Officer, YES Prep Public Schools
- Bertha Narvaez, Houston Police Department
- Felipe Quevedo, Houston Dynamo
- Carmen Ribera, NASA
- Cely Rivera, Microsoft
- Oscar Santollini, Personal Development Coach
- Marco Torres, taco columnist, Houston Chronicle; photographer
- Nella Garcia Urban, Chief External Officer, YES Prep Public Schools
Interested in participating in one of our Student Affinity Summits? Click here to learn more and how to get involved!