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CHCI’s Ready to Lead Draws 150 Students to NEIU in Chicago

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Chicago students representing eighteen area high schools joined CHCI for its Ready to Lead (R2L) Chicago event at Northeastern Illinois University on Saturday, October 13, 2012. Though the clouds had rolled in by early morning, inclement weather was not enough to stop the 150 students who attended the event to receive intensive college-going training, mentorship, and the motivation needed to successfully complete high school and pursue a postsecondary education. The day opened with a special address from NEIU President, Dr. Sharon K. Hahs. Dr. Hahs provided a friendly and warm reception for students and chaperones present, and assured the audience about her personal commitment, and that of NEIU’s, to diversity, inclusion and access.

Participants received in-depth training in three key areas necessary for college preparation: college planning, financial literacy, and leadership development. Sponsors and members of the community partnered with R2L for the interactive delivery of these three workshop sessions. Presenters included Julissa Cruz and Renzo Mejia, both of whom are CHCI alumni and challenged students to discover their inner leader; Hector Cambray, Escalera Youth Coach at Instituto Del Progreso Latino, who guided participants through a fun, student-friendly approach to the college planning process; and Troiria Baker from the Economic Awareness Council, who shared with students the many ways to become financially savvy in a time of alarming tuition hikes and a recovering economy. Additional support for the financial literacy workshop was provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Also in attendance was State Senator Iris Y. Martinez of the 20th District of Chicago, who kicked off the Mentoring Power Hour session with a very special speech about the workforce’s need for Latino students to graduate from college at a greater rate. After Senator Martinez’s address, over fifty area professionals and college students joined us for the hour-long mentoring activity to share their personal success stories, and serve as living proof that Latinos can obtain an education and persevere as leaders in their communities. Through this session, participants were offered an opportunity to see themselves reflected in the experiences of their mentors, and hopefully, find within themselves the courage necessary to become successful college graduates. Mentors represented a variety of distinguished organizations and cut across all sectors, including: the Chicago Police Department, Columbia College – Chicago, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the NEIU Alumni Association, and Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity, Inc.

The event closed with a powerful keynote address from actor and official R2L spokesperson, Wilmer Valderrama. Valderrama told students about his family’s struggle to put food on the table at times, and how by launching a successful career in television, film, production, and business he was able to prove wrong all those who had doubted him. CHCI is proud to have offered yet another successful R2L event and hopes to continue to educate, motivate, and empower Latino youth in Chicago.

For more information on Ready to Lead, please visit: www.chci.org/ready_to_lead