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Clubs Converge on UOP

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Former Cougar (WRHS ’08) Jamiel Jackson performs for the crowd.

Happy Cougars! BSU and M.E.Ch.A students at the BLOCK conference.

More happy Cougars! BSU and M.E.Ch.A students at the BLOCK conference.

On October 8, several Weston Ranch High School clubs (BSU and M.E.Ch.A) and students had the opportunity to attend the Second Annual BLOCK (Building Leaders Overcoming Challenges with Knowledge) conference hosted by the University of the Pacific.  The BLOCK conference attendees, along with their teachers Ms. Cervantes, Mr. Zamarripa, and Mr. Menzel, took part in a day-long celebration where students received instruction in collaboration and attended workshops designed explicitly for local underrepresented youth promoting academic and personal excellence.

“The mission of the BLOCK Conference is to connect, inspire, and support local youths in the 7th through 12th grades,” M.E.Ch.A advisor Ms. Cervantes explained.  “The conference is designed to target boys and young men of color in hopes they will become engaged in school and excel academically.  We want the students to be responsible, learn to be self-advocates, improve communication, and develop self-efficacy skills.”

“Ultimately, encouraging educational engagement leads to college as a realistic option for each youth,” BSU Advisor Mr. Zamrippa added.

WRHS took 40+ students (BSU and M.E.Ch.A club members) to UOP and met Keynote speaker Ty-Licia Hooker, follow her on Instagram @tynique), who regaled the audience with a powerful greeting and message on the importance of values, both family and community.  She shared her story of perseverance and how she managed to attend UOP with the help of the CIP program which promotes community involvement to get a scholarship to attend UOP.  Ms. Hooker, a graduate of Cesar Chavez High School, concluded her morning talk by expressing the importance of overcoming obstacles in life and focusing on reaching your goals.

Conference attendee Andrea Espinoza offered the following summation, stating, “I felt like she was very passionate about being here and talking to us.  The fact that she got personal with us was great.  I felt vulnerable, and I can safely say that for the first time I was able to relate to staff in a personal manner.” Espinoza’s comment shows the connection she made to the conference was powerful.

The students were then whisked off to workshops where they listened to speakers explain what colleges are looking for from their applicants.  “You have to let the colleges know why they should accept you.  You have to promote and sell yourself,” said Mr. Menzel.  As the students listened to the college speakers, many of the BSU female attendees got involved in the station.  This workshop provided all students with a great opportunity to bond with one another.

Looking around the room, everyone in attendance had a high-interest level, and it was impressive.

Next, the students attended a conference where they listened on how to become a leader and how to work with others.  There was high energy in the room, and the students spoke with confidence due to the welcoming atmosphere.  The performance task was to work as a team to find the ‘Xs’ placed strategically throughout the room and then make a human bridge from one ‘X’ to the other.  Some groups were short on members, so they took off their coats and used them to help stretch out the line to the ‘X.’  “The goal was to work together and come up with new ideas to solve problems,” said Espinoza.  “I think we accomplished that.”

When the morning workshops concluded, students adjourned to UOP’s volleyball gym for lunch.  As the students ate and shared experiences about the morning, musical acts entertained them, and some students joined the artists on stage.  As time went on, the stage filled up with more and more students who sang and danced.

Before the day ended, the attendees watched skits performed by the conference hosts.  Each vignette reflected a theme of the day, and the first skit was all about values.  It appeared this would be the last thing the students got to see, but, for the WRHS students, one more surprise happened.  Jamel Jackson (WRHS 2008) performed entertained the crowd with music and singing.  It was an inspirational performance, and to see a graduate of WRHS performing for so many people was a proud moment for the Cougars in attendance.

The day came to a close, but the memories will live forever.  Getting the opportunity to sit with students from other schools, be in a college atmosphere, and hear the messages was indeed an eye-opening experience.  Change cannot happen with just words.  Change occurs with dialog, and effort, and collaboration.  College is a reality and should be an opportunity viewed with optimism and hope for a brighter future.  It was a great day for the Cougars in attendance, and it was a great day to be part of the change.

 

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