By Jocelyn Frohwein
Nina Garcia once said, “I think my Latino culture has equipped me with a different point of view than the rest of my counterparts, and seeing things from a different angle has helped me a lot. I feel very proud of my culture, of my Latino heritage.”
Often we look at Latino students and shortchange how powerful and visionary their voices can be in our educational setting. The only way we can help them to step into the spotlight is to educate these students in the best light possible, giving them the tools to change their world and ignite their fire for change, respect and to validate our rights.
Students across Iowa came together for a winter break camp this December to be educated, guided and informed on their Human Rights, ACLU information, DACA, leadership skills, political opportunities, and how to speak up in their community.
Al Exito, an Iowa-based organization which provides programming and mentoring for middle and high school Latino students, family programming and events, and interaction with Latino students on college campuses to motivate students to stay in school and plan for education beyond high school; the Latino Political Network, a first-of-its-kind organization focused on an increase in the number of Latino elected officeholders across the State of Iowa through education and empowerment; ACLU of Iowa, protecting the basic freedoms and liberties of everyone in our state; and the Iowa Department of Human Rights office of Latino Affairs, came together with students from Belmond, Clarion, Des Moines, Hampton, Marshalltown, and Ottumwa, that are part of Movimiento which is an afterschool leadership and entrepreneurial empowerment program for high school Latino youth, to learn about their rights, responsibilities, and showcase opportunities for the future.
The adults: leaders, chaperones, coordinators, volunteers, presenters, were expecting a series of presentations and educational formats for the students to learn from. The idea was for the students to take information and educate others in their community. What we did not bargain for was the ability for students to mature, grow, and develop connections that are unforgettable.
One of the most profound moments was when students were able to voice their frustrations through poetry and spoken word lead by student facilitators in RUN DSM. Students began to connect emotionally and develop a large sense of community and family with one another.
Singly when we voice our frustrations, many will not listen; but if we are unite as one, our voice can speak volumes. One thing I know as a Latino is this: Latinos sense of family is deeper and stronger than any I know, we are a family strong, united and passionate to lead change as one.
Jocelyn Frohwein is Al Exito’s Marshalltown high school coordinator