Winona State hosts underrepresented students


Jayda Anderson

Amy Hornby Uribe begins a discussion about solidarity during Winona State’s fourth annual Civic Engagement and Leadership Conference for underrepresented high school students on Wednesday, April 4 in East Hall.

Erin Jones, News Reporter

Winona State University’s Global Studies and World Languages and Ethnic Studies Department’s hosted their Civic Engagement and Leadership Conference for underrepresented high school students for the fourth year in row.

Three of the six Minnesota high schools invited were in attendance, which totaled over 90 students plus teachers, counselors and chaperones.

Due to the unexpected snowstorm, the three other schools were unable to attend and the conference started later than planned.

Despite delay, Amy Hornby Uribe, one of the conference’s coordinators, said the event went well.

“I think that event was a wild success,” Hornby Uribe said. “Although it didn’t go as planned, that’s fine and that’s life.”

As the high schools arrived, students checked themselves in and got breakfast before the welcome and opening session began.

At the opening session, Hornby Uribe, who is also an associate professor of Global Studies and World Languages and the director of the Spanish teaching program, spoke to the high schoolers about the importance of civic engagement.

“This year it was about a half an hour session,” Hornby Uribe said. “The idea is to help the students understand why they’re at this event and what it is we want them to learn.”

In addition to the morning session, students had the opportunity to attend two pre-lunch breakout sessions of their choosing.

All of the breakout sessions were taught by Winona State students taking courses within the Global Studies and World Languages department.

As a part of the conference, Cassandra Dame-Griff, assistant professor of Ethnic Studies and the director of the Ethnic Studies Program, hosted a student panel with some of her students.

“There was a group of students who had taken Ethnic Studies courses and were there to talk to students about what it means to go to college, but also what it means to find your place on campus.” Dame-Griff said.

Dame-Griff and the student panelists spoke briefly before opening the panel to questions from the high schoolers.

One of the student panelists, Joe Hernandez, a sophomore majoring in cell and molecular biology, recalled one high schooler’s question.

“There were some surprisingly good questions,” Hernandez said. “There was one kid who asked what our favorite part about being college students was and I think it caught us all off guard.”

Though the event was designed to help teach high schoolers about civic engagement and the importance of college, it was also a learning experience for the Winona State students who hosted the breakout sessions.

Megan Doboszenski, a junior communication studies and Spanish major, helped in a session about social media and finding your voice.

“It’s super hard to get people to participate and that was something that we were forced to learn today,” Doboszenski said. “Some of them were really quiet, so I think today helped us learn how to get people involved and engaged.”

Despite some of the challenges the Winona State students faced in breaking the high schoolers out of their shells, they all agreed the event was a success.

Katty Zhazhil Hernandez, a senior legal studies major, hosted a session about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the DREAM Act and what high schoolers can do to make a difference.

Zhazhil Hernandez stated the importance of her session and felt that it made an impact on the high school students who attended it.

“A lot of these students are DACA recipients or they know people who are, so I think knowing that they could relate, or they knew someone who it affected was really important for them,” Zhazhil Hernandez said. “Just being able to tell them why it’s important to keep DACA alive was really nice for them.”

Maribel De Guadalupe Rangel, a first-year elementary education major, hosted a session about walk-outs, protest and the power of student voice, also emphasized her excitement about the event.

“I’m so glad I did this as a freshman because I want to do it again and again and see how it changes every year,” Rangel said.

Linda D’Amico, a professor in the Global Studies department and a coordinator of the event, also elaborated on the importance of the event for the Winona State students.

D’Amico stated that not only did the event give Winona State students the skills to design a project like the Civic Engagement Event, but also to implement it, evaluate it and improve it for the future.

“They can demonstrate their leadership skills and their communication skills as well as their ability to work with all different kinds of people to future employers or graduate schools or whatever may be next,” D’Amico said.

Though the event coordinators and the Winona State students who participated stated that things did not go exactly as planned, they all agreed that it was successful.

“I did take time to talk with a few different students and they liked their sessions, they were excited and they were happy with what they learned,” Hornby Uribe said.

Hornby Uribe also acknowledged the effort put in by her and D’Amico’s students who helped organize the event.

“Year after year they rise to the challenge and they’re just phenomenal and this year’s group didn’t let us down either,” Hornby Uribe said. “They’re pretty great and I’m really proud of them.”