Latino youth have a destiny and its value is great, Richard Montañez, executive for PepsiCo North America, creator of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and the Godfather of Hispanic Branding, told students at the 2015 Latinos in Action youth leadership conference.
“I want to encourage you. Do you know what it means to encourage someone?” said Montañez. “It means to grab courage and put it in their hearts, so they are never the same again, so they are not afraid of anything. That’s what I want to do.”
Montañez shared with the audience his personal story while giving advice to students.
“It is my advice to you to hang out with people who encourage you. Stay away from people who discourage you. You don’t need them in your life,” said Montañez.
Latinos in Action (LIA) is an organization that helps Latino youth as early as middle school, working with them through college to help prepare them for their future careers.
The organization helps the youth through an elective class taught at different schools around the state.
“In this class, students do a lot of service, a lot of leadership and also learn a lot of skills to prepare them for college,” said Jose Enriquez, founder of Latinos in Action.
Frank Magaña, director of operations of Latinos in Action, said that the LIA class is in 100 schools total, and 96 of those are in Utah, going all the way from Box Elder School District to St. George.
LIA partnered with Weber State’s Education Access & Outreach office, which provides learning and cultural activities to students from more than 25 high schools and 22 different middle schools.
“I really like the cultural performances and the speaker,” Aranza Castillo, Stansbury High School sophomore, said.
The all-day event on March 12 provided students the opportunity to participate in workshops that covered topics such as interview skills, dressing for success, success in high school and college and financial opportunities in college.
“I liked the workshop where they taught us what to wear and what not to wear for job interviews,” Karla Mejia, Stansbury High School sophomore, said.
Enriquez said the purpose of creating and promoting this kind of event is to get kids on campus and to celebrate their efforts.
“We want the Latino culture to be seen as a leverage. It’s a good thing. Sometimes our students are labeled Latino, and they might feel that there’s no value,” said Magaña. “In our class we say it’s great to be Latino, but it is also great to be American … just take pride in everything that we are.”
Castillo said it is important to come to this kind of events because it informs students about the resources and things that are out there for them.
Magaña said LIA wants students to see that there are opportunities and that the American dream is still alive.
“One of the ways we help the community to achieve the American dream is by giving them the skills in the classroom to not just graduate from high school, but also to be successful in college because that’s where it starts,” said Magaña.
Karime Carbajal, a South High School student, said she learned that no matter where students come from, they can always become someone important.