On Oct. 22, California State University, Dominguez Hills hosted “La Feria Es El Momento: Edúcalos” (The Moment is Now: Educate Them Fair) on campus, welcoming approximately 50,000 visitors from throughout Southern California and even as far south as Tijuana, Mexico. Organized by Univision’s local station KMEX-TV, the Spanish-language education fair promoted a college-bound culture for Spanish-speaking parents and provided information and resources for their children’s success from pre-kindergarten through college.
David Gamboa, director of government and community relations at CSU Dominguez Hills, said that the Feria, the only such event held in the state, provided direct access to information about education to families whose children will make up the future workforce of California.
“Our university educates a diverse body of students for the workforce and also ensures that our graduates have the skills needed to move our state forward,” he said. “La Feria Es El Momento supports the next generation of leaders and innovators by encouraging them from Pre-K through college to continue on with their education.”
Univision Network news anchors Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas signaled the start of the Feria with President Mildred García during a ceremonial ribbon cutting. Later in the day, President García read favorite childhood books to children in the Reading Garden. More than 100 exhibitors ranged from school districts, colleges and universities to educational nonprofits, along with Spanish-language academic experts and volunteers who informed parents on how to guide their children through California’s educational system.
Workshops on the CSU’s “How to Get to College” initiative and financial literacy were also offered. In addition, event sponsors Chivas USA, LA Galaxy, LA Kings, Natural History Museum, Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, McDonald’s, Buick, Metro PCS, and State Farm showed how their organizations support and enhance the educational experience. Approximately 30,000 books were given away, courtesy of the Molina Foundation, Jumpstart, First5 LA, the office of the Mexican Consulate-General in Los Angeles, and Consejo de Federaciones Mexicans en Norteamérica (COFEM). Dental and vision wellness screenings were also made available for the Feria attendees.
A keynote address was given by Milka Duno, a Venezuelan race car driver who holds four master’s degrees, is a certified naval engineer, and the first Latina to be designated an expert race car driver. An advocate for education and national ambassador for Univision’s Es El Momento education initiative, Duno encouraged students to achieve academic excellence. Speakers at the Feria also included representatives from State Farm, who conducted a town hall discussion on financial preparations for families to send their children to college. In addition, scholarships were awarded by COFEM to several undergrad and graduate students from institutions throughout California.
Carson residents Cecilia and Edgar Hidalgo attended the Feria at CSU Dominguez Hills last year with approximately 27,000 other participants. They returned this year to obtain updated information that would support their daughter Karen, a senior at Carson High School, in her pursuit of a college degree and her interest in becoming multilingual.
“It was important to come get informed as a family, to support and show our daughter how important education is,” said Edgar Hidalgo. “She is bilingual and speaks and writes both English and Spanish, but has always aspired to learn [another] foreign language like Chinese.”
Guadalupe Chavez attended the Feria with her three daughters and one son, whose ages ranged from four to 26 years old. Katia Chavez, a senior at Long Beach City College, attended the Feria to obtain information on scholarships and loans in the hopes of transferring to CSU Dominguez Hills next spring. In addition, her mother hoped to learn how to help four-year-old Stephanie and 24-year-old Oscar keep up with their skills in Spanish.
“I felt it was important to bring my family in order to get informed and to acquire books in Spanish so my son Oscar and daughter Stephanie can practice [reading in Spanish],” said Guadalupe Chavez.
Lilia Fierro visited the Feria last year to obtain information on what universities offered the best programs for her oldest daughter, Jennifer. She learned that the local university, located near their Carson home, would be the best choice for the Carson High School graduate, who is now a freshman at CSU Dominguez Hills, majoring in criminal justice in preparation for law school; she also plans to earn her bachelor of arts degree in Spanish. Fierro hopes that Jennifer’s path to higher education will influence her younger children.
“It’s very important because they’ll see her as an example, that she graduated [from college],” she said. “They’ll try to follow her footsteps and do the same.”
Armando Lopez recently began taking English classes at an adult school in Gardena in order to work toward a promotion at his job. The stockroom supervisor at Sanyo Denki America said that he hopes to be fluent in the language in order to communicate better with his daughters and to earn more money to send his four daughters – and one child on the way – to college.
Jennifer Lopez, who is a student employee in University Communications and Public Affairs, said that the College Center at Carson High and her membership in the Boys and Girls Club of Carson prepared her well to enter a university by providing access to information and field trips to job and college fairs.
“I was taking regular classes, but as soon as I started taking honors and AP [classes], that’s when the school started paying attention to me,” said Lopez. “I started looking for and accepting opportunities that would enrich my knowledge and help me create a brighter future.”
Seven-year-old Lilia Lopez enjoyed the Feria, especially any giveaway toys that had to do with soccer. She said that she likes sports, math, and science, and wants to become a veterinarian when she grows up. When asked by Jennifer why school is important, she gave the obvious answer.
“Because it helps us learn,” she said.
CSU Dominguez Hills has been a partner with KMEX and Comunicard in the Es El Momento education fair since it was brought to California in 2009.
– Reported by Joanie Harmon and Fredwill Hernandez