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West campus to host Summer Leadership Symposium

June 18, 2009

For the second summer in a row, Arizona State University’s West campus will host a three-day Summer Leadership Symposium that will provide 150 high-achieving Latino/Latina youths with an introduction to the college experience.

The dates of the symposium are June 25-27 and the event is presented by AGUILA Youth Leadership Institute, a year-round Phoenix-based college access program for Latino/a youths.  Aguila is the Spanish word for “eagle.”

“This event serves as entry into the year-round AGUILA program and provides a comprehensive and rigorous experience that prepares students for their college journey,” says AGUILA CEO and founder Rosemary Ybarra-Hernandez.  “It also offers the bonding experience between participants that we know is critical to their success as they move into the year-round program where they will work together in preparing for college.”

The three-day symposium is full, as 150 students will live in the apartment-style Las Casas residences at the West campus. On hand will be 20 resident assistants who are also college guides, 18 of whom are AGUILA alumni.  The students will attend a variety of sessions, including an interactive opportunity with local professionals and community leaders, who will share their educational experiences with the “Aguilitas.”  Also scheduled is a college fair featuring universities and colleges from around the country, as well as a “Major Fair” that will offer insights into the many college majors available to incoming students.  Three 30-minute mock college classes will be presented, allowing students to move from one subject to another from a list of 12 courses associated with selected college majors.

“There is nothing more important to Latinos than guaranteeing that our children stay in school and pursue higher learning,” says Ybarra-Hernandez, who unveiled the AGUILA Youth Leadership Institute in 2006 and has recruited youths representing 32 high schools in the Valley, Tucson and Coolidge for this year’s program who represent the 72 schools AGUILA serves.  “We all know a high school diploma just isn’t good enough anymore.  The symposium is designed to give students the skill sets need to move to the next level, while also creating an ongoing support network, as well as information and resources.

“Our children are hungry to learn, and Latino parents want their children to succeed.”

The students enrolled in the symposium were picked based on a combination of criteria, including academic achievement – most have a 3.0 GPA or higher – personal recommendations, and an expressed desire to pursue a higher education.

José E. Nañez, Sr., an ASU President’s Professor who is the executive director for community outreach in the office of University Student Initiatives and will participate in the symposium, says the event is also a benefit to students’ parents and families.

“University life and university education seminars are provided during the symposium for attending parents and family of the students,” says the professor of psychology and neuroscience in the Division of Social and Behavioral Science in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.  “This helps the students’ parents and family to understand the university process and prepares them to better support and assist their student.

“Although these students may be academically prepared, university life can be foreign socially and culturally even to high-achieving students.  The AGUILA Institute and the upcoming symposium help students to transition from high school life to university life with all its intricacies and challenges and to excel academically.”

Ybarra-Hernandez says that although the symposium is full, volunteers are needed to assist with nearly all sessions during the three days of scheduled activities.

“We have many opportunities for volunteers to be a part of this symposium,” she says.  “It is a wonderful chance to serve the community and give something back or pay it forward.  We have heard positive responses from everyone who interacts with our students that just being around them is an incredible experience that gives you a sense of pride and hope that our future is in good hands.”

People interested in volunteer opportunities should contact the AGUILA offices at

ASU’s West campus is located at 4701 West Thunderbird in northwest Phoenix.