Pursuing excellence

Al Éxito students participate in Latinx conference at U of I

“I always expect a lot out of them.”

Marshalltown High School teacher and Al Éxito Director Jocelyn Frohwein said students in the Latino student group got to practice their public speaking skills and history knowledge at the 19th Annual Iowa Latinx Conference at the University of Iowa on Wednesday.

“Some of our students went to the History Day competition, where they placed third,” she said. “Some of our students went to see Youth Summit presentations, and then some of our students were in the Professional Development Institute, presenting with me.”

The word “Latinx” is used as a gender-neutral version of “Latino” or “Latina” to refer to people of Latin American origin.

For the history competition, the Marshalltown Al Éxito team studied for two weeks on Latin American history. Things like languages, migratory patterns and contemporary and past immigrant issues were among the competition’s topics.

“It was interesting because you got to learn more about the Latin history,” said MHS freshman Juan Hernández of the history competition. “I was surprised that, during the Great Depression, a lot of Mexicans and Latin Americans got deported, even if they were U.S. citizens.”

He said that took place, in part, because of the state of the country’s economy at the time.

“It was pretty interesting and fun, and I would like to, hopefully, win next year,” Hernández said.

MHS senior Nayeli Barajas was also part of the history group at the conference, and said it was difficult but rewarding to study Latin American history on top of regular school work and her job outside of school.

“I learned that there was a Latino case before Brown v. Board of Education that took place in the 1940s to desegregate schools,” she said. “[The conference] is definitely something that everyone should experience if they’re Latino.”

During the professional development segment, Frohwein and Al Éxito students presented on a range of topics.

“The student group talked about positive mentoring, and they also talked about how to build healthy relationships, where we’re being connected as a community and we’re striving for excellence with our students,” Frohwein said.

Students also got a lot from the presentations.

“We all enjoyed it,” said professional development participant and senior Rosa Yanez of the presentations. Despite having previous experience with that segment, she said it was good to be able to make connections with professionals.

Frohwein said students new to Al Éxito participated in the Youth Summit presentations. She said Dr. Julio Cammarota introduced dancing as a form of cultural expression and resistance to oppression as part of the session.

“This is stuff that’s not necessarily taught in our school districts,” she said of the history and youth segments of the conference. “We like to go every year, it’s very important for us, as a community.”

In order to go to the conference, students must have had passing grades and good attendance. This year, 21 students in all were able to participate.

The conference, which continued through last week, wraps up today with a continuation of the Professional Development Institute and the Educational Excellence in the Midwest Conference, and Frohwein said she’ll be in attendance.

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com