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Published: Saturday, 9/28/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Career day expands horizons for Latino students

Professionals offer advice, role models

BY FEDERICO MARTINEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Roberto Torres, director of the Northwest Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, offers advice to high school students during a career day for Latinos on Friday at Bowling Green State University. Roberto Torres, director of the Northwest Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, offers advice to high school students during a career day for Latinos on Friday at Bowling Green State University.
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Alejandro Avila is a freshman at Waite High School this fall. Although the school has a significant Latino student population, he’s noticed their culture, history, and accomplishments are rarely acknowledged by teachers, or in classes and textbooks.

Dominique Pecina, a freshman at Start High School, said despite excellent grades, many Latinos like her are often ignored by career advisors, or directed towards low-paying, low-skilled jobs.

It’s a common problem, not just in Toledo, but in many communities, said organizers of Friday’s Toledo Public Schools' career day held at Bowling Green State University. About 300 Latino high school students from Toledo and Bowling Green participated in the event, sponsored by BGSU.

“We don’t really have any classes that have anything to do with Latinos so this is great,” Alejandro said.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click here for more photos from Latino Career Day

The students had an opportunity to meet and talk to Latino professionals from various career backgrounds, including aviation, photochemical sciences, engineering, journalism, law enforcement, sales, government jobs, fire services, education, and business.

“I think it’s neat,” Dominique said. “There’s nothing like this at my school.

“It gives me a chance to meet people who look like me and learn how they got to their position. What did they have to do to get there?”

Program organizer Jose Luna said career day aims to expose students to careers that they may not have considered before.

“Latino kids always tell me the same things,” said Mr. Luna, Hispanic Outreach teacher for Toledo Public Schools. “They want to be police, firemen, lawyers, nurses, teachers, or professional athletes. But there are so many other careers out there. We try to bring as many Latino professionals as we can so that the students can see what kinds of jobs can be done.”

Keynote speaker Roberto Torres, director of the Northwest Ohio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, encouraged students to consider becoming business entrepreneurs.

“The business sector has become very competitive,” Mr. Torres said. “Our Latino community would be best served entering entrepreneurship because there are a lot of needs that aren’t being met; and we bring a different set of skills.

Mr. Torres pointed to the founders of Google, eBay and Sun Microsystems, who were all immigrants.

“They came from different countries, they were hungry and willing to work hard and take risks,” he said.

Abe Cruz, a veteran Toledo Police Department patrolman, said he has participated in Latino Career Day for years. It’s not just part of his job as a community officer, it’s personal: He wants to give back and be a role model to his community.

Mr. Cruz, 51, has been with the police department for 21 years and serves as a community officer at Start. His older brother, who worked as a New York police officer, inspired him to pursue the same career.

“It’s important to make these students aware of the different programs in law enforcement,” he said. “Sometimes kids come in thinking it’s going to be like the TV show CSI. But other kids have a better idea. They have plans. They want to get out there and become familiar with the streets because they think it will help them later when they become an attorney.”

Contact Federico Martinez at: fmartinez@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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