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Education fair promotes higher education to Hispanic students of all ages

Thousands of Hispanic students and their families gathered at Fresno State Saturday for the inaugural on-campus Feria de Educación.

The statewide fair is designed to promote higher education to K-12 students of the greater Central Valley area by providing information booths and workshops, career visualizations and a reading garden.

“We really want to encourage students to start thinking early, and get parents to understand that preparing for college doesn’t happen when the student is in high school,” said Frances Peña, planning committee chairwoman. “It happens as early as kindergarten.”

The California State University, in collaboration with Spanish-language television network Univision, has held similar education fairs at CSU Dominguez Hills and Sacramento State which have drawn tens of thousands of Spanish-speaking students and their families to learn about the typical education journey with a focus on preparing for college, the CSU said.

The education fair began with an opening ceremony. Several Univision anchors, Fresno State President Joseph Castro and Mexican-American Boxer Jose Ramirez introduced the event with remarks about the importance of getting both parents and children thinking about future career opportunities. Then Fresno State’s Los Danzantes de Aztlán performed their cultural Mexican folkloric dances.

“Often times because the Spanish-speaking parents don’t always get the information, it is important for us to reach out and make an effort to provide opportunities for the students,” Peña said. “We have a very large Hispanic population in the Central Valley and this is a great opportunity for us to reach many folks.”

Throughout the day the students had the opportunity to stop at the booths and gather information about different California universities, Fresno State career paths and programs that could be useful to them.

“We are just giving students information about the majors that we have here on campus,” said Shur Lee, at the Fresno State Outreach Services booth. “We want to get to the students where they know there are, some students don’t even know what major they want to pursue. So by providing this information, we would like to show them what we can offer them.”

Campus tours and workshops about different college campuses, college transition, financial aid, stress in school, career options and services for undocumented students were offered throughout the day.

Jesus Gonzales, an outreach ambassador with Generation STEM, a Televisa Foundation, gave a visual demonstration of how to make a DNA helix with pipe cleaners and basic circuit construction to students.

“We are here to promote science, technology, engineering and math,” Gonzales said. “We show the kids the basics of STEM. This shows them the fun side of engineering, so we are trying to encourage the kids to join us.”

Camila Leal learned to connect the circuit wires and make the contraption come to life.

“We were learning how to hook it up and make power by circuiting wires to make it go,” Leal said. “I think I would like to do engineering when I grow up. They seem enjoyable to me.”

Norma Leal took her sixth-grade son to the fair as a way to help expose him to different career paths.

“As a parent, I brought him to focus and choose something. So, the engineering hands on activity was really good,” Leal said. “I think that’s important for the little ones. He want to do a video designer and we found out he would have to study computer science, so this gives them a good perspective.”

Students were also able to dress up as a career of their choosing in the “Imagina tu Futuro,” or imagine your future area, where they were able to visualize themselves in various careers. Then the children stood in front of a green screen and took a picture in the appropriate career setting.

“We want them to begin thinking about careers in the future and the best way to do that is for them to think of themselves in those careers,” Peña said.

Marisol Ramirez, an elementary school student, dressed up in a nurse’s uniform and excitedly presented the photograph, which showed her in an operating room, to her mother.

“I think what they are doing is good because it gets them thinking,” said Maria Ramirez, of Reedley. “I think it prepared them for the future because the activities make them choose what they would like to study.”

The Mexican Consulate also donated books for children to take home. During the fair, various volunteers, including Castro and his wife Mary Castro, read stories to the children in the Reading Garden, which aimed to promote literacy within the family.

Norbeto Diaz took his three children to the education fair so they could see the college astrosphere and get motivated and curious about exploring different career options.

“We picked up some books that the Mexican Consulate donated which will keep the kids strong in their native language,” Diaz said “I also received information from all the different universities here, which is a great way to motivate all students to continue their studies. I really do hope they keep this event going for future years.”

Diaz accomplished his mission with his daughter Daisy. She is now looking forward for a future studying and perfecting her Spanish.

“I want to study more Spanish, because I want to be fully fluent in both English and Spanish,” Daisy said. “That way once I get a job I can communicate with everyone.”

Castro was excited to see all the families and the young children attending the event, he said

“I think it’s so important that they feel happy on a university campus and at Fresno State,” Castro said. “I want every single child in the valley and beyond to know they have they have potential to do whatever they want to do, and they have the gifts to be successful. It’s all about preparation, hard work and support from family and friends and with all that together they can do whatever they want.”