Friday, April 18, 1997

Surrounded in Scholasticism

Surrounded in Scholasticism
The Chicago Maroon
By Pamela Appea

The Hispanic Association for Cultural Expression and Recognition (HACER) held its sixth annual Educational Conference, Saturday, April 12 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. in Ida Noyes Hall. The event entitled, “Degrees of Freedom: Encompassing the World of Education” drew more than sixty-five college-bound students.

This year, as in the past, HACER’s Educational conference chairs aimed to provide college-bound students with comprehensive information on college admissions, financial aid, work-study jobs, and academic success. Throughout the day, speakers addressed the issue of making college a priority.

“Due to the incredible diversity of its members—differing nationalities, ethnicities, religions, economic status, personalities, etc.—HACER’s members and HACER’s issues encompass and represent the complete Diaspora of human relationships,” claimed a HACER “vision statement” on the conference.

The event showcased several speakers including Jose E. Lopez, a Puerto Rican community activist; Rabbi Funye, an African-American spiritual leader of Beth Shalon B’Nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation; and Juan Andrade, a Mexican-American political leader and analyst.

“[All of the conference] speakers are top-notch,” said Baudelio Herrada, president of HACER.

Rabbi Capers C. Funnye started off with the keynote speech at Max Palevsky Theater at 10 a.m. Funnye is a former consultant for the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies and currently works as an instructor at Bronzeville High School and in the Blue Gargoyle’s G.E.D. Education program.

Funnye’s brief speech focused on completing school. “Education is something that no one can take away from you,” he said. He also supported the idea of goal-setting, which, when combined with determination, can help students to achieve great things.

After the speech, Gillian Young-Miller, administrative coordinator of Youthplace, an advocate group which provides resources for young people, and Kathy Stell of the Coordinating Council for Minority Issues (CCMI) at the U of C, hosted a workshop entitled “Health, Wealth and Knowledge of the Self.”

Stell encouraged perseverance among minority and low-income students. Among other things, Stell said she believed that students should “expect, but [not] accept racism, ask for help and keep on asking until [they] get help,” and “find” a mentor.

Ofentimes, minority students are discouraged from applying or entering institutions of higher learning because of the exorbitant cost, Stell said. Stell and other speakers encouraged more high school students to learn about financial aid, educational loans and scholarships, which are either merit or need-based. For example, the U of C (including room and board) will cost more than $30,000 for the 1997-1998 school year, and even state colleges can be above the reach of the low-income family.

“The five points [that Stell made] about racism [and our society] helped people to understand the obstacles that [people of color] face,” said Shawn Page, a college-bound student attending the conference.

The program continued with a panel discussion entitled “Avenues of Achievement” which informed students on the logistics of college admissions and financial aid. According to Raybblin Vargas, coordinating chair of the conference, the panel discussion was also meant to explore the “diversity of higher learning institutions.”

A variety of educational administrators spoke in the panel session: Ted O’Neil, deal of Admissions in the College at the U of C; Romelia Mercado, community relations manager at DeVry Institute of Technology; Gabriel Hernandez, director of LULAC (a national educational service center); and Alicia Reyes, director of Financial Aid at the U of C.

“I know what it’s like to limit your options,” said O’Neil, who explained that he did not apply to “prestigious” universities for his undergraduate studies for fear that he would not be able to get in or succeed. O’Neil later went on to complete graduate coursework at the U of C English Department.

“We [at the U of C admissions office] see people who have dreams, and we try to help [the student] achieve,” stated O’Neil.

O’Neil explained that the city of Chicago, as well as the state of Illinois, are home to many colleges, and there are many opportunities for students at the U of C, as well as the University of Illinois, DePaul and Loyola University.

During the HACER conference luncheon, entertainment for the event was provided by Kuumba Lynx, Cosmic Water, Prodigy and the Brickheads. These entertainment groups sang, danced, rapped, recited poetry and breakdanced, displaying an impressive collection of talented youth.

After the luncheon, several other workshops took place. Following them was a final lecture session in which noted speakers Jose Lopez and Juan Andrade spoke.

Lopez explained that success should not be an issue of making a lot of money and having unlimited power. Ultimately, he claimed, this route will only produce an alienating [e]ffect for minority people or low-income people. Instead, Lopez asserted that “success must be premised tenfold on what you give back to your community,” he said, emphasizing education’s role in that success.

HACER President Baudelio Herrada explained that Andrade is a highly sought-after Latino speaker due to his active encouragement of voter registration in the Latino community. In addition to this, he has promoted the democratization of Latin America through numerous meetings with political parties, community organizations, and labor costs throughout the countries in Central America.

He has won the “100 most influential Hispanics in America Award” three times and has also been note by the Chicago Sun Times as “Chicagoan of the Year.”

Andrade reiterated the importance of education. He related his personal experience as a grammar school student.

“I remember how one teacher told me, ‘Young man, you won’t ever amount to anything,’” he recounted.

He stressed that students should believe in themselves and to “fight for your rights.”

“The future lies in our students. I know y’all hear that a lot, but it really is important,” said Andrade.

Saturday’s event, which cost HACER $2,500 dollars, was funded in part by the Coordinating Council for Minority Issues (CCMI).

Last year, Student Government (SG) refused to help fund the HACER educational conference because “they said it would not be specifically for the community,” said an anonymous HACER member. HACER wanted the Educational Conference to include the community and all University of Chicago members,” they said.

“We aim to keep this aspect of education alike for all ourselves, and for all of our guests—students, counselors, administrators, and teachers—alike,” said a representative for the 1997 HACER Educational Conference.

For the most part, the students who participated in the conference enjoyed the whole experience and the speakers who provided inspiration to them.

“This is my second year organizing the event along with my peers, and it has been a truly rewarding experience of self-discovery. Next year, we hope that this [conference] will be a collaborative effort between organizations like OBS [Organization of Black Students] and other RSOs at the University,” said Natalie Belisle, vice president of HACER and a fourth-year student in the College.

Some conference participants were unhappy with the fact that so few people participated in the HACER educational conference.
“This program has a lot of potential but deserves more administrative support. Hugo Sonnenschein should be here,” said Troy Washington, a third-year student in the College.

“I can tell that people at HACER are very disappointed because the event was so poorly attended,” said an anonymous student, who speculated that the logistics of busing in the high school and G.E.D. students may not have been as efficient as possible.

“I am a little disappointed in the turnout,” said Sherlina Nageer, a Washington Park Youth Program volunteer and a third-year student in the College. “[However], I think that [this event] is a really good idea.”

“They are involving the whole community. It’s not just a U of C thing,” she said.

Originally published April 18, 1997