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Madison Metropolitan School District

Latino Youth Summit fosters college, career and cultural exploration

The Latino Youth Summit (LYS) began in 2011 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a consortium of campus and community partners who came together to provide a pathway to support Latino middle and high school students in the Madison area. The goal each year is to unite our Latino youth and families at a two-day conference to identify college and career opportunities through mentoring, career readiness workshops and cultural exploration. Key Latino Youth Summit partners include The MMSD Family, Youth And Community Engagement (FYCE) Department, UW-Madison’s Office School of Education; UW-Madison’s Office of the Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer, Division of Diversity, Equity & Educational Achievement; and the Centro Hispano Community Center - together these groups planned this year’s virtual conference, engaging students in conversations and activities centered around  leadership, identity, social justice and higher education. 

This spring, more than 50 Latino MMSD students participated in the virtual Latino Youth Summit, including youth from Sherman and Cherokee Heights Middle Schools. Check out these student spotlights featuring three middle schoolers who attended LYS workshops this year. 

2021 Latino Youth Summit Student Spotlights

Ximena Salmeron, Sherman Middle School, 6

Ximena Salmeron
It’s important to come together to learn life skills like how to save money and how to apply for college and scholarships.

Ximena Salmeron is a young artist who enjoys drawing anime characters. At home, her original artwork and paintings cover her bedroom walls. Ximena heard about LYS through her older sister, Lupe, who helped organize this year’s summit through her youth engagement work with Centro Hispano Community Center. At LYS, Ximena made new friends and especially enjoyed the financial literacy workshops and social justice presentation on the beautiful and meaningful murals painted in Downtown Madison on State Street. Ximena’s parents immigrated to America from Mexico. She was born in Madison along with her older brother and sister. Ximena wants to go to college and is most intrigued by graphic and anime design.

Shelly Torres-Avalos, Cherokee Heights Middle School, 6th Grade

Shelly Torres-Avalos
Latino Youth Summit showed me that Hispanic people can be something.

Shelly Torres-Avalos thrives in language arts and creative writing at Cherokee Heights Middle School. She likes her teachers, has lots of friends and believes diversity is one her school’s strengths. Shelly found out about LYS through an email invitation from her school’s Bilingual Resource Specialist (BRS). “There was an astronomy workshop at the summit this year that was my favorite,” said Shelly. She loves studying stars and galaxies and came in first place in an astronomy quiz given by a UW presenter at the summit by answering all of the questions quickly and accurately. Outside of school, Shelly is a musician who sings, plays the piano and guitar. Shelly has two younger siblings that she loves being a role model to. Her parents were born in Mexico, while she and her younger brother and sister were born in Madison. “I am very grateful to be in Madison because people in the community are very nice.” After high school, Shelly wants to attend college and medical school to become a doctor. She wants to continue to support her siblings and share her musical talents with her family, friends and community.

Nancy Ordonez Aguilar, Sherman Middle School, 7th Grade

Nancy Ordonez Aguilar
I loved the workshop about getting ready for college and thinking about what career is right for you. Even though we’re young, this information is useful right now.

At 13 years old, Nancy Ordonez Aguilar loves learning. She is excited about going to college, and already knows she wants to study law for a career. Nancy is new to LYS. She was especially interested in all the information she received about local precollege programs, scholarships to apply for and academic resources available to Latino students. “This was my first summit experience and it was so much fun,” says Nancy. “I learned a lot about myself and my culture in the identity workshop. I feel like I can relate more to other people and still be myself.” Nancy’s family is from Mexico. The oldest of four siblings, she was born in Madison and is proud of her family’s heritage. “I’m proud of my parents for courageously moving to a new place with better opportunities for our family. They did not get the chance to go to high school or college. I will be the first one in my family to go to college and that is very important to me,” explains Nancy. Math is Nancy’s favorite subject. She enjoys the pace and variety of virtual learning at MMSD. Nancy enjoys puzzles, and when she’s not studying she is spending time outdoors with her family. “In the summer, I spend hours outdoors with my family,” says Nancy. We go swimming and biking, play at the park and take long walks and we always take time to watch the sunset as a family.”

- Marlita Bevenue, MMSD Communications: