With a box full of books precariously balanced on his shoulder, Jaime Torres checked out some of the displays on the main fairground during the sixth annual “Feria de Educación” Hispanic education fair at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) on Oct. 11.
The day before Torres, who lives in Palmdale, had heard about the fair while watching the news on Univision 34, KMEX. His son, Billy, attends the College of the Canyons in Valencia, so while his family was out of town, Torres decided to come and gather education information and books for his much younger children at the fair, and see if he could find used textbooks related to his son’s major—social work—in the University Bookstore.
One of the first people to arrive at the fair, Torres was amazed at the sheer number of free books for K-12 students that were spread out over several tables next to CSUDH’s Torodome Gymnasium. So he grabbed a box and started “pushing them in real fast.”
“It was a long way to drive, but it’s important for my family. And it’s hard to not come when they say the books are free,” said Torres, an immigrant from Guatemala who has been in the U.S. since 2000. “University [education] will provide a good future for my kids. I don’t have a job right now because I don’t have a high school diploma. That’s why I’m here today. I don’t want my kids to be in that same situation. I want my family to do better than me.”
Hosted by CSUDH and its partners Univision Los Angeles and the CSU Office of the Chancellor, Feria de Educación was developed to encourage better involvement of parents in their children’s education, to reduce the Latino dropout rate, promote a college-going culture and help parents learn how to successfully navigate their children through the education system.
Unlike Torres, who came to the fair alone, many of the estimated 20,000 people at the fair came with their families—parents, K-12 children, even grandparents. Like Torres, many traveled a far distance and arrived early to attend what is thought to be the largest Hispanic education fair in Southern California.
Hundreds of people had already arrived at the fair by 9:30 a.m. when a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony took place on the outside activities field to officially launch the fair and its variety of events and workshops. The ceremony included remarks by CSUDH President Willie J. Hagan, Univision Los Angeles’ Vice President and General Manager Luis Patiño, Carlos Mendoza from the Consulate of Mexico in Los Angeles, and Maria Elena Meraz, executive director of the nonprofit Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE).
Hagan told guests and volunteers that the fair’s impact goes beyond the family, and that he is proud of CSUDH’s service to Hispanic communities.
“More than half of our students [at CSUDH] are Hispanic and many of them are first generation, which is a sign of upward mobility in this community, and we’re very proud of that,” said Hagan. “Our goal is very simple: We want to help students succeed in high school and in college. And as you all know, success requires having the right information and being prepared, and that is what today is all about.”
Gabriela Teissier, a co-anchor on KMEX’s show “Primera Edición,” co-emceed the fair’s grand opening with Univision Radio KLVE’s DJ Donaji. Teissier believes the broad reach of the Feria de Educación is among its most vital characteristics. She also said the fair is testimony to the number of people in the Latino community who want a better future for their children.
“This event brings families to educators, people who want to spread the message and often don’t have a way of reaching out to as many as 45,000 people [in previous years] in one day, like we do here,” said Teissier. “It’s pretty amazing when you consider that in some families there will be a kid starting pre-kindergarten while another is starting college. It makes you wonder how many times these people have to get on a bus to go to one part of the county to get information for college, then to another part to get more information from another school. So bringing all these resources to Cal State Dominguez Hills on one day is priceless.”
More than 80 local educational and community organizations, school districts, and universities were on hand to help with the event. There were more than 50 workshops, and two town hall forums, one focusing on Common Core standards that included CSUDH Professor Lilia Sarmiento from the College of Education on the panel, and a mental health forum that included CSUDH Professor of Psychology Silvia Santos. The two forums were webcast on DHTV from the University Theater. Other experts led sessions on STEM education, admissions, financial aid, the transfer process and preparing academically to succeed in college.
Nicole Beaquechea, 19, an East Los Angeles College student from Monterey Park who came to the fair with her mother, Eloisa, and father Richard, collected education items and literature in the gym early in the morning and planned to attend the mental health forum at 11 a.m.
“I want to be a clinical psychologist. I am really interested in the human mind and want to help people with mental illness cope with their struggles,” she said. “It’s an interesting major and I really want to help the community in that way.”
An estimated 70,000 books in both Spanish and English were given away at the fair, which was made possible by contributions from the Office Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles, the Molina Foundation, and 99 Cents Only Store.
CSU Dominguez Hills alumnus Chris Tipton (B.S., business administration, 2000) drove from Torrance to enjoy the fair with his family. He was standing to the side of the book tables with one child in a stroller while his wife and daughter went through stacks of books.
“My daughter just entered kindergarten and part of her homework is to read at least 20 minutes from a book a day. We also read to her and she answers our questions, which is part of her homework. Now we have a lot more books to add to her collection,” said Tipton. “Going to college is very important to my kids’ future. I graduated from this university and I attribute much of my success to the degree I earned here.”