Thousands of Spanish-speaking families weaved though the 7th Annual Feria de Educación at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) on Oct. 5, filling bags and boxes with children’s books and educational literature as they learned about the variety of educational possibilities available to them.
Hosted by CSUDH and its partners Univision Los Angeles, the CSU Office of the Chancellor, and the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE), Feria de Educación—the largest Hispanic education fair in Southern California—was developed to encourage better involvement of parents in their children’s education, to reduce the Latino dropout rate, and promote a college-going culture. An estimated 20,000 attendees –parents, college and K-12 students—attended.
“This is an important event for us. Getting students into school and having them go to college is critical, not just for themselves, but for the community and the country,” said Hagan, who provided the opening remarks during a riboon-cutting ceremony to start the day. “Being part of the Feria is particularly important for us at Cal State Dominguez Hills because we are designated as a Hispanic-serving institution. Sixty percent of our students are Latino, and many of those students are the first in their families to go to college.”
Other speakers during the opening ceremony included Consul General of Mexico in Los Angeles Carlos Sada, Marisela Cervantes, director of community partnerships at the CSU Office of the Chancellor, and Luis Patiño, vice president and general manager of Univision Los Angeles.
“One of the things that always impresses me about coming out to this event are the volunteers who will be giving away nearly 45,000 books,” said Patiño, who provided closing remarks. “When I look out at everyone and see all the volunteers, I really stop and think about all the amazing things we do at Univision. We have some really cool programs and really cool shows, but at the end of the day, I don’t think there’s anything more important than what we’re doing here.”
Following the ribbon cutting, attendees were welcomed into the Torodome gymnasium to visit the nearly 50 information tables staffed by representatives from across the state in all levels of education. There children in attendance also got to don career costumes and have their picture taken, and spend time in a reading garden.
In classrooms near the gym, dozens of workshops, and a town hall with panels focused on such topics as mental health, academic insights for fathers, and Common Core standards took place, and the activities field was filled with vendor booths, a science fair hosted by CSUDH’s Center for Innovation in STEM Education, and the distribution of tens-of-thousands of books, which were donated by such organizations as the Consulate of Mexico, the Molina Foundation, Jumpstart, and the El Salvador Foundation.
Los Angeles resident Edward Trujillo, who has been bringing his children to the fair for five years—two of which are now attending college—arrived at the fair early with his wife and two younger children: 13-year-old Katie, and 6-year-old Edward Jr.
“It’s very important for us to be here today. This is their future. We need to start early to get them interested in higher education,” said Trujillo. “Today will help them determine what major they want to focus on. My daughter [Katie] already has an idea of what she wants to be, but for my son, who is only 6, this makes a good impression on him. You need to set their minds right and help them look forward to going to college at a young age.”
“I’m just very interested in marine life and in discovering what marine biologists do, and what I will need to know if order to major in that,” said Katie Trujillo. “Today I’m also exploring my options to see where I can apply if I don’t get my first choice of college.”
CSUDH alumna Samantha Hernandez (’13, B.A., public administration), a Los Angeles resident, also came to the fair with two children; her 3-year-old son Nathaniel, and her second child who she is pregnant with.
“My mom has been a big supporter of education, and I want to pass that on to my boy. She raised us with the mentality that ‘The only thing I’m going to leave you with is your education,’” said Hernandez in the reading garden, which was coordinated by CSUDH’s Jumpstart program. “My husband and I want the same for our growing family. We are currently looking for a pre-school for Nathaniel that we feel fulfils our academic goals. He’s only 3, but we want to get started pushing education now.
“When we were walking around and told my boy that this is our university—my husband also went here—Nathaniel said, ‘This is my university, too!’ Hernandez added. “I think the more we bring him into this environment the more inclined he will be to go to college.”
Before leaving the reading garden with his mother, Nathaniel was one of several children to sit and read a book with President Hagan, who also believes the education fair and other events that draw children to university campuses influence them in a positive way, even at a young age.
“Events like these demystify what a university is for children. They remember and think, ‘Okay, I’ve been here before and I’ve seen a lot people like me—my race, my gender—and I remember being there with my parents and getting support,’” said Hagan. “People go where they feel welcome, and we want people to know they’re not only welcome her at Cal State Dominguez Hills, but in the entire world of higher education.”