Multicultural conference a first

School District 51 and Mesa State College co-sponsored their first multicultural conference for local eighth- through 12th-grade students Saturday at the college.

The daylong event included a campus tour, a visit from U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., and three workshop sessions on the topics of diversity, leadership and education.

The school district has hosted events with similar themes for teachers and staff, but this is the first large-scale conference of its kind for students, said Susana Wittrock, District 51 executive director of equity and minority student success.

“The idea is to bring kids together and promote multiculturalism and higher education,” Wittrock said.

Wittrock said as the school district grows larger and more diverse, she wants all students to feel included and know that college is attainable. The college showcased what it has to offer local students and get students as young as 13 interested in continuing their education after high school.

“It’s important that students see the transition to college is a little overwhelming, but they can do it,” said Kennilyn Wright, Mesa State’s manager of student diversity and advocacy.

In his keynote speech to more than 100 students, Salazar said his father encouraged him and his seven siblings to go to college, something each one of them did, despite not having much money.

“We weren’t born with a silver spoon in our mouths. We were born with a shovel in our hands, and that’s where our ingenuity came from,” Salazar said. “The great equalizer is an education.”

Victoria Davis, a Grand Junction High School junior, said she already planned to attend Mesa State. But the event solidified her excitement about going to college.

“It was well worth it,” she said of spending her Saturday at the conference.

Students were selected for the event at random, Wittrock said. They had to have a 2.0 or higher grade-point average, and schools helped make the event diverse by looking at students who are involved in diversity-oriented programs at their schools.


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