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Latino College & Career Fair gives students tools for success

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) — The Indiana Latino Institute (ILI) hosted its 11th annual Indiana Latino College & Career Education Summit and Fair Thursday at the Century Center in South Bend.

This is the second time the ILI has held the fair in South Bend, and the first since the pandemic.

Indiana Latino Institute’s mission is to help students, especially those who come from bilingual or non-English speaking families, have the tools they need to prepare for college and adult life after high school.

This is a free event for high school students to learn about the college application process, financial aid, and more.

More than 30 colleges and universities participated in the event, and many workshops were held to guide students through topics that might be unfamiliar to them.

“This event is specifically for Latino students,” said Marlene Dotson, president and CEO of the Indiana Latino Institute. “Whether they are first or second generation, the stakes are the same. It’s stressful because they don’t know the opportunities are there, they don’t know the resources are available. And often, and so often, they don’t get that information from their high schools, and often it doesn’t come from home either. So frustration and lack of information keep students from pursuing these opportunities, they just give up, and so we want to prevent that.

The keynote speaker was Carlos Ojeda Jr. of Cool Speak, a youth engagement company.

He was not diagnosed as hard of hearing for 23 years, but told students that once he could finally hear the world around him, he found his voice, and it gave him the power to change his life.

Now, he travels the country explaining to young people that their voice is their power and that they must be their greatest cheerleader in order to pursue their dream.

“We still have our voice, and as long as you have it, you can be heard, you can be counted, you can ask the questions you need to ask in order to get the answers you need to give you the the knowledge you need to transfer it to power, and if you’re brave enough to use it, you can effect change,” said Carlos Ojeda Jr., Creative Force and CEO of Cool Speak. “You can change your life , life from your community to your family, and if you’re not careful, you could actually change the world. That’s why I do what I do, because I want to inspire our next generation to rise up and reach their full potential, make their dreams a reality and have a local and national impact.

The Indiana Latino Institute will hold academic and professional fairs in Indianapolis on September 9 and in Evansville on September 14.

Ojeda will also be the keynote speaker at these events and will be touring and speaking at the Fort Wayne School District later this month.

Jokingly, Ojeda said he’ll get “his fix” of Indiana sweet corn this month before returning home to Philadelphia.

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