Thousands of Spanish-speaking families attended the Educación: Feria Es El Momento (The Moment is Now: Education Fair) held on the campus of California State University, Dominguez Hills on Oct. 5 to learn about the many educational possibilities in California.
For the fifth straight year, CSU Dominguez Hills partnered with Univision Los Angeles stations KMEX and KFTR 46, the CSU Chancellor’s Office, and Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) to present the Feria–the largest Hispanic education fair in Southern California–as part of a long-term education campaign led by Spanish-language television network Univision to increase the involvement of Spanish-speaking parents in their children’s education, reduce the Latino dropout rate, and promote a college-going culture–all issues that are very important to the university, as well.
The event has doubled from 15,000 visitors in 2009 to an estimated 30,000 parents and their K-12 children this year.
During a ribbon cutting ceremony to start the day, University President Willie J. Hagan told guests and volunteers that the fair’s impact goes beyond the family.
“[T]his program is a kind of investment that says a lot about who and how we are in terms of our campus and our community,” he said. “ What we’re really doing is building a strong foundation for the future.”
CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White addressed the crowd in English as well as a brief message in Spanish.
“Thank you for coming to the California State University, Dominguez Hills campus to learn how we can all work together as a team to ensure that your children have every opportunity to not only be good students and to stay in school but to graduate from high school and to be ready to go on to college. The academic issues, the social issues, and the financial issues–you’ll find solutions here today.”
Representatives from more than 80 nonprofit educational and community resource organizations, school districts, and universities throughout southern California were on hand to help parents learn how to successfully navigate their children through the educational system. In some cases, students themselves took the opportunity to learn about the next steps in their education.
One such student was Roberto Suarez, a senior at Downey High School. He is clear about his goals and seems to be taking all the right steps toward meeting them. He said he is interested in a career in the petroleum engineering or aerospace industry, is participating in an internship with El Segundo-based aerospace technology company Raytheon, and attended the fair to discover which colleges offer environmental or chemical engineering programs.
“My mom works for Parent Institute for [Quality Education], PIQE, and I came also because I’m applying for college. I’m looking for different universities, where to go, and to find out information,” he said.
Other families were at much earlier stages in their educational journey, but as in the case of Adriana Jimenez’s family, they still had the ultimate goal in mind.
Jimenez’s son, Osvaldo, had his picture taken with professional firefighters and listened to stories read from children’s books in the jardín de lectura (reading garden), where Hagan, White, local politicians, and KMEX personalities read to hundreds of children in small groups throughout the day. The bilingual 4-year-old also accompanied his grandmother, Nolverta, and mother while they gathered information for his future education as well as that of his 2-year-old brother, Adrian, who rode in a stroller.
Jimenez said she was attending the fair for the second year to learn ways she can help guide her children through their schooling during the formative stages to make sure they have the best chance at someday earning a college degree, which she noted, will make them first-generation college graduates in her family.
To help Jimenez get started on the long-term journey, she received free children’s books for her sons from the more than 40,000 that were donated to the fair by the office of Mexican Consul General in Los Angeles Carlos Sada, the El Salvadorian Foundation, and Jumpstart, a national early education organization.
Blanca Delgado of South Gate, also a second-time fair goer, navigated the university’s Torodome gymnasium, gathering information on colleges for her daughter, who is an 11th grader at Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies, a Los Angeles Unified School District magnet high school. Although beyond the phase of early education books, she appreciated the significance of the giveaway.
“You have the different universities, but then you have a lot of community-based organizations that offer resources … like Early Start. It’s just good. I wish they had this when [my daughter] was a baby, because I would be in the Early Start section and eventually evolve into [the college] section,” she said, adding that she found the workshop on financial aid to be particularly helpful.
Additionally, more than 45 workshops held in university classrooms covered such topics as scholarships and financial literacy, college admission requirements, the role of parents in their child’s education, issues concerning AB 540 students, and potential careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, to name a few.
Other activities included a “visualization” booth where children could try on graduation gowns or uniforms of certain professions and have their picture taken; live entertainment on an outside stage; and vendor booths.
Fair participants also had the opportunity to attend town hall meetings on immigration and another on the health care reform act, which was moderated by Univision Network morning show co-anchor Satcha Pretto and included CSU Dominguez Hills professor and chair of Chicana/o studies José R. López Morín as a panelist.
“It’s a great opportunity for Californians who traditionally never had access to health care. And now they will be eligible, if they are citizens,” Morín said.
Walter Liza’s children fit that criterion precisely. Liza, a native of Peru, attended the town hall to learn about the details and cost of insurance for his children who are United States citizens.
The Compton resident is also planning for his children, who are in the eighth and fourth grades, to eventually attend college. The fair provided Liza, who never went to college, with information on topics on which he lacks first-hand knowledge.
As a result of attending the Feria, he said, “I can tell [my children] what they need to do to go to college and how it’s going to be.”