CoolSpeak speaker Carlos Ojeda Jr. speaking to students at the USHLI Student Leadership Summit sponsored by McDonald's held at SLCC.

Hispanic Student Leadership Summit Draws Hundreds

More than 1,000 students from area high schools attended…

Inspiration at CoolSpeak’s Power of Youth Camp





Thirteen Montross Middle School students and four chaperones recently attended the GEAR UP sponsored CoolSpeak Leadership camp at Old Dominion University (ODU) on July 25 through July 27, 2015. CoolSpeak is a youth engagement company that provides speakers, programs and events geared toward motivating students and the professionals that guide them. According to CoolSpeak, they strive to provide inspiration so that learning takes place with the fun and inspirational events and allows each student to achieve their highest potential.

The three day program was entitled the “Power of Youth.” The focus of the camp was getting students to access the power that lies within them. By providing students with information and tips on how to access and maximize their power, they are prepared to face the world with confidence. CoolSpeak teaches the students that power is what you say; who you are; what you believe; what you know; what you are worth; who you know; what you do; what you say; and how you use it.

From the first moments upon arrival at ODU, the students were thrust into a fast paced learning environment beginning with a tour of the campus. All the students and counselors were then placed into their “family” unit. You stayed with your family for all activities. This is a good way to see how you can learn among others and develop leadership skills.   Students and chaperones participated on such team building efforts as “Walking on a Volcano,” Hula Hoop circle, the Maze, Trust Circle, Pawnshop, and the building and tearing down of “The Mountain.” Each family also kicked off the first evening with presenting a skit for the groups.

Some of the exercises, like “The Mountain,” allowed students to explore the negative things that have happened to them in life and get rid of those feelings. This powerful exercise had a group of 150 students silently listening to the words and feelings of the lead facilitator, Carlos Ojeda, Jr. Mr. Ojeda and his dynamic team were blunt, funny, exciting, and powerful in their presentations to the youth. Among his CoolSpeak team was a former professional football player, a Harlem Globetrotter, a WWE wrestler, a couple of poets, and a writer. Additionally, on day three, some ODU students came and answered questions about attending college.

A highlight of the sessions was an evening game show on Sunday night. Students and chaperones went to a small center off campus where CoolSpeak had hired a professional group to come and do a dynamic game show themed program for the students. Complete with pulsating music, flashing lights, a dance floor, and seats for the audience, students competed for cash prizes while answering questions about college admissions, general math and science questions, and music video information.

Students were encouraged to write an “I AM” poem. Many of the students then presented their poems to the assembled students. After the tearing down of the Mountain, students were then asked to put down one word on the back of each of the poems that all the students had done. Students could then take this positive memento home with them to remind themselves of how important they are in this world of youth power.

Throughout the days at the camp, students were encouraged to use their journals. After they get home, they can use these as a point of reference and reminder of the skills that they had gained during the sessions.

Montross Middle School students who attended the camp included Gage Anderson, Will Bankhead, Adrianna Carter, Nekya Day, Jody Dean, Tenelle Fisher, Anthony Jones, Celene King, Diego Ramos, Craig Shepherd, Hazen Shryock, Tinya Thompson, and Aniyah Wise. Chaperones included Patty Long, Gear UP Director, Mary Jones, MMS, Stan Schoppe, W&L, and Aaron Sova, MMS.

Among the information shared by CoolSpeak was the great statement of what you believe about yourself. As Mr. Ojeda noted “Henry Ford is credited with saying, “whether you think you can, or think you can’t- you’re right.” Beliefs are powerful. Knowing what you believe can help you overcome stereotypes, bias and misconceptions. Believing in yourself can help you overcome the stereotypes, bias, and misconceptions people place on you and give you the power to overcome.”

This exceptional camp opportunity was made available to the Montross Middle School GEAR UP cohort by GEAR UP Virginia and SCHEV, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

By Patty Kelly Long


Thousands of Students Attend Conference

Miles de jovenes del estado asistieron a una asamblea en la que se les enseño acerca de la importancia de la educación.

Reporte de Heidi Camacho.

Diversity, cultures embraced at Utah student summit

(KUTV) The Multicultural Youth Summit drew 1,500 students from all over Utah to the Salt Palace Convention Center on Wednesday.

“What I saw were exciting moments of learning, participating, engaging,” said Dr. Jackie Thompson, Director of Educational Equity at the Davis School District.

There were students of all races and ethnic backgrounds at the event, but it was a big opportunity to tell kids of color that they matter.  It was also a chance for Caucasian students to be with students of other backgrounds and learn about them.

Dr. Thompson said the energy and enthusiasm that speakers at the event inspired in students who attended, can be mimicked in the classroom where minority students as a group, struggle to excel.

Results from the recent Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence (SAGE) test, showed that while all Utah students need to work harder to achieve proficiency in various subjects, minority students continue to lag behind.

Dr. Thompson said what the Multicultural Youth Summit showed is that “culture matters.”  She said that in order for minority students to reach their potential, schools have to take into account students’ diverse cultures and backgrounds so that kids see themselves in their own schools.  Thompson said schools can do this by creating lessons that reflect the school’s diversity and by hiring teachers that share students’ backgrounds.

At Davis School District, Thompson said 15 percent of students are minorities, while only three percent of teachers are minorities.   She said schools have to make changes soon as minority students are growing at three times the pace of Caucasian students.  “It has to get better now.  We don’t have a second chance with our students.  We have to intervene immediately.”

Copyright 2014 Sinclair Broadcast Group


National Hispanic Leadership Summit Kicks Off at Lanier


Carlos Ojeda Jr. told more than 500 students packed into a Lanier High School auditorium Wednesday that he had grown up in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in New Jersey where everyone “looked like me, dressed like me, talked like me, ate the same foods and danced to the same music as me.”

The motivational speaker had them laughing when he said, “I never, ever, ever saw white people.” They were silent when he said he saw his first murder at age 10, a drug deal gone sour.

By the end of his speech and that of his business partner, Ernesto Mejia, many were wiping away tears.

United States Hispanic Leadership Institute President Juan Andrade Jr. said it was the kind of response he hopes to inspire with a 10-city leadership summit sponsored by McDonald’s that started here and will take the speakers’ messages to cities like Tucson, Ariz.; Reno, Nev.; Atlanta and Chicago to reach hundreds of thousands of students.

“When you grow up, you only learn what your environment teaches you. You only learn what your neighborhood shows you, and you can’t be blamed for that;” but you can be blamed for “letting it stay that way, because the world is diverse and it changes and you’ve got to change with it,” Ojeda said.

His family moved to Reading, Penn., where he struggled in school and was told by one of his teachers that he’d never graduate. Ojeda spent the next hour describing his struggles, his family’s support and one counselor’s belief that he could make it. That, and scholarship money, saved him, he said. Now he has several degrees, has worked for a multinational company, launched his own business and is happily married with children.“You’ve got to ask questions. You don’t know something in class, you don’t sit in ignorance. You raise your hand, you ask that question,” Ojeda said.

Mejia said he went from being a former migrant worker to college student to college dean. Background and circumstances are no excuse, he said.

Senior Linda Vasquez said the speeches had moved her to tears. Her parents, who like Mejia’s family are from Mexico, didn’t finish school but have encouraged her to go to college. She works part time at Bill Miller’s, she said, and wants to “have a better life and be someone who can be a role model for my family.”

A news conference at Café College on Tuesday featuring Mayor Julián Castro and San Antonio Independent School District Superintendent Sylvester Perez highlighted USHLI’s goal to breed leadership and civic participation. Andrade said the summit also aims to connect students with college recruiters and financial aid support — an opportunity given Lanier students after the speeches.

Lanier Principal Edward Garcia said it showed students that the face of success looks like them.

“We’re not different than they are,” Garcia said of the speakers who grew up in low-income neighborhoods and were once-struggling students. “We’ve had successes and failures in our lives, and I think it was engaging to students because of that.”

Twitter: @mlcesar


ABC 7 Chicago

TV Report – Conference Promotes College to Hispanic Students

A rally is underway promoting higher education among Hispanic students in the Chicago area.

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