Latino Students Encouraged to Expand Their Leadership Roles

Article excerpt

Byline: Justin Kmitch Daily Herald Staff Writer

Hundreds of Latino teens gathered in Bensenville Friday to learn how to expand their leadership roles beyond their own high schools and be positive role models for young Latinos.

"It was a great bonding experience," said Claraissa Murillo, a sophomore at Maine West High School. "I mean, a majority of us were in a room with 250 other people we could relate to, and we didn't have to feel like minorities."

Speeches and presentations from successful Latinos - including Channel 5 news anchor Anita Padilla, prominent attorney Manuel "Manny" Sanchez and 1998 Fenton graduate and Northlake police officer Arturo Cabral - were meant to encourage students to pursue and reach their own goals, Fenton High School Assistant Principal Wil Wagner said.

He organized the first Latino Youth Leadership Conference with other members of a local consortium earlier this year.

"These students have dreams just like everyone else, but sometimes they encounter roadblocks," Wagner said. "But we've given them a few examples of how high they can fly and how much they can contribute if they apply themselves."

More than 35 percent of Fenton's 1,560 students are Hispanic, but conference participants came from West Chicago, Addison Trail, Wheaton North, Wheaton Warrenville South, Glenbard East and other area high schools.

Many students said they appreciated Wagner's and Fenton's efforts to coordinate a comfortable learning environment for them. …