A Latino youth leadership boot camp is taking place for the first time at Utah State University. The university is joining Latinos-in-Action, a national organization working to encourage Latino youth to consider pursuing higher education.
Celina Wille works with USU’s youth extension programs to connect the Cache Valley community with resources like Latinos in Action to increase the number of Latino college graduates in Utah.
“These are students that are eighth, ninth, and 10th graders," she said. "They’re not having solid plans yet, but they can start thinking about how their future might look like and what it takes to get there."
Wille was on a video call with USU President Noelle Cockett when she shared the idea about working with the university to hold the boot camp.
“We didn’t know how it would look like or who would do what, but President Cockett said, ‘I am all for it. You all plan the nuts and bolts,'" Wille said.
In 2017, only 77 percent of Utah Latinos graduated high school. The percentage of those going to college is even lower.
Latinos in Action is a nonprofit organization set up to prepare Latino students to attend college, develop leadership skills, and increase their rate of literacy. They currently have programs in 164 schools located in four states, including Utah.
“A great deal of parents have that dream," Wille said. "They may not be able to articulate it because they don’t themselves know the pathway to college. Most of these kids are first-generation college students.”
The upcoming boot camp offers participants to mentor with Latino USU alumni to help forge a clearer pathway to college.
“There is a pathway and we just need to kind of open it up and be able to make people aware of opportunities and provide venues for extending that education,” Wille said.
She hopes the training will not only influence the state’s young Latino population but also benefit Utah’s economy.
“We know that the workforce of the future and if we want to have a vibrant community, vibrant economy, we need to open the doors for everybody to have an opportunity to change the future, but to also give them the tools to do that,” Wille said.
The group of 120 students will gather in Logan Tuesday.