For the week of April 21, 1999  thru April 27, 1999  

Idaho governor inspires Hispanic youth

Keynote address delivered in Sun Valley

Express Staff Writer

Local students attending Friday’s Hispanic Youth Symposium included, left to right, Yesenia Villarruel, Leticia Regalado, Flavio Palomera, Sergio Ruiz, Rosalyn Leon and Mayra Vivar. (Express photo by Willy Cook)

Hundreds of Hispanic youth sat poised, ready and attentive at the first day of the Hispanic Youth Symposium in Sun Valley on Friday.

A ripple of applause began to surge across the crowd that had gathered at the Sun Valley Inn as Gov. Dirk Kempthorne walked down an isle toward a podium at the front of the room.

Kempthorne came to the resort city to speak to the large gathering of Hispanic young people, who flocked to Sun Valley from the far reaches of the state. They came here to celebrate their common heritage, their academic achievements and their bright futures at the three-day gathering.

For the Wood River High School students who attended the conference, motivation to succeed and pride in themselves were among the outcomes.

"I learned to never give up," said WRHS senior Mayra Vivar. "We have to believe in ourselves. We need to go to college."

Vivar, who wants to be a nurse, said it was great to meet many people her age. She said it was great to realize that today’s young people are the future of the country.

WRHS Senior Sergio Ruiz agreed.

"It doesn’t matter who you are," he said. "You can do whatever you want."

The students also got to meet many people who made them feel proud and good about themselves, Ruiz said.

Latisia Regalado is also a WRHS senior. For her, the highlight of the weekend was realizing that she wants to further her education beyond high school.

"Before I was confused…Now, I want to go to college," she said.

WRHS English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher Stacey Ross said the weekend was an incredible motivational experience for her students.

She said Hispanic guest speakers came from around the country to tell the young men and women about their own past successes and failures.

Not only did they tell the kids that anything is possible, Ross said, but they told them it is their responsibility to educate themselves.

And seeing the governor was an exciting experience for the WRHS Hispanic students.

"I was so excited about it," Regalado said. "He helped give us a sense of pride."

The governor made sure of that.

"Yesterday I was to head to Kentucky. I serve on a group…comprised of the governors of the 50 states and the state legislators and the Attorney General," the governor told the group. "When I saw that I would have then missed speaking to you, I rescheduled. I did not want to miss affirming to you how special you are."

Kempthorne then asked a portion of the group to stand, about one third of the room’s occupants. That is about the number of Idaho’s Hispanic youth who do not graduate from high school, he said.

"I do not want you to be the ones who don’t succeed," he said. "The fact that you have this symposium, the fact that you have so many adults that take part in it is the clearest signal that we believe in you. All we ask is for you to believe in yourself."

Kempthorne told the group that he has increased Idaho’s state school financial aide funds times two. He told them of a program designed to increase English-speaking proficiency among the state’s minorities. He told them of the dangers of drug use and of his efforts to construct an Hispanic Cultural Center.

He also told the students not to let go of their native language.

"It is important that students have a firm grasp on the English language, but do not let go of the native language you have," he said. "There are many open doors to those who are bilingual."

The $56 million worth of imports that come to the U.S. from Mexico is one example of an area that can provide jobs to English and Spanish speaking individuals, the governor continued.

"There’s so much taking place in Idaho and so much we need you to take part in," he said.

"We believe in you… we believe there’s nothing that you can’t accomplish," he said.

"So by believing in yourself and realizing that we’re no longer here to have a third of the room stand up as an example of who does not continue the journey, but that nobody, nobody, is left behind any more."


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