Leadership conference to empower Latino students

By Linda Luk

Voz Alliance De Latino Estudiantil will host its eighth annual Latino leadership conference to empower and unify Latino students.

VALE, translated to Voices of Latino Student Alliance, will host its annual leadership conference on Feb. 14 and 15.

“The VALE leadership conference serves as a resource for the encouragement and promotion of student development and empowering in all academic fields, and aims with the goal [of] creating community, business and cultural leaders,” said Cindy Moreira, VALE conference chair.

Along with NIU students, Latino students from high schools and community colleges across Illinois are invited to attend. This year’s conference expects to draw about 200 people.

“A lot of people at the community colleges look forward to it,” said Ricardo Serrano, VALE workshop coordinator. “Its focus is on Latino students, but the topics can be applied to everybody.”

With the theme of Empowering Our Voices through Unification, the conference will feature numerous events, including a cultural night, a formal dinner and various workshops.

“We develop the theme with what we thought would be appealing, and that is for Latinos to be empowering and unifying,” Moreira said.

Featured as the keynote speaker is Juan Andrade Jr., president of the United States’ Hispanic Leadership Institute, a presidential medal recipient, one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in America and an NIU alumnus.

This year, attendees will attend a wide variety of workshops ranging from dancing, college preparation, networking and leadership. Also featured as part of the conference is Noche Cultural, a cultural night

Noche Cultural features performances put together by various student organizations, Moreira said. The event is free and open to all students.

A comedy group, Salsation Theatre Company, also will provide entertainment with a Latin flavor for the conference attendees Saturday afternoon.

There will be a $3 charge for non-registered students who wish to attend the performance.

With all the events going on at the conference, Moreira hopes students will leave with a sense of motivation, motivation to continue higher education and to become leaders.

“The VALE conference is one of the three main Latino conferences offered every year in the Chicagoland area,” said Kenji Amos, VALE historian. “This is the best opportunity for people to learn about the Hispanic culture here at the NIU community.”