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By Erin Howard and Veva Segura

On October 14th , the Kentucky Dream Coalition and the Latino Outreach Office from Bluegrass Community and Technical College welcomed more than 500 students from 12 area high schools and representatives from 27 colleges to the 10th Latino Multicultural College Fair (LMCF) Since the creation of the program, over 6,000 students, 500 educators and thousands of volunteers have been reached with the message that all students can access, and with the right support succeed, in higher education.

The LMCF was created out of the urgent need to inform students about educational opportunities. Over the years it has grown into a program that empowers young adults and students to connect to the movement and lead the way for change in our community.

Here are five tips for educators, and activists interested in empowering their community through an educational outreach event!

1. Start Simple

Mark Howard, Associate Director of Campus Recreation at Eastern Kentucky University listens to three high school students share their goals during 2013 LMCF held at Eastern Kentucky University.

The LMCF started with no funding. There was no theme or expectation. We simply knew there was a huge information gap, and we wanted to do something about it. Do what you can with what you have, then build from there.

2. Get your nerd on!

Students completing LMCF pre-survey at LMCF 2007 held at Kentucky State University.

Do your own research through pre or post surveys of the student participants. By doing research, we have been able to apply for grants and request institutional support thereby offering greater supports for the teachers and students to attend by providing funds for lunch, transportation stipends, printed materials and more. Also, we present the research back to the schools so that teachers can learn what their students understand about access to higher education and what issues concern them.

3. Be unapologetically REAL and be fiercely intentional about every workshop, every one-on-one college coaching or mentoring session, and message directed at the students

Dr. Glenn Rodriguez shares his story of struggle as one of the first people in his family to complete college during the 2009 LMCF held at the University of Louisville. Over 800 students attended the LMCF that year.

We make sure (through trainings and program planning) to embrace and empower all aspects of a student’s identity– the fair isn’t just about a student’s undocumented identity but we don’t sugar coat it or ignore it either. It is a reality that deserves discussing and an issue of justice that necessitates raising awareness among teacher and student allies. The college fair includes the traditional set up of college booths, a series of workshops taught by current undocu-college student leaders, one on one mentoring, and a motivational assembly featuring keynote speakers who locally or nationally fight for educational equity, immigration reform and economic justice.

4. Mix the movements

Latino/Chicano history wall.

Expose students to the current and historical civil and immigrant rights movements. The LMCF provides history displays and interactive spoken word, music and art workshops. Because many schools don’t teach about the civil rights movement, immigration history, or the Chicano movement, we integrate such lessons into the delivery of the program. This raises the social awareness of all who attend and inspires students to get involved in the fight for change within their communities.

5. Engage the ENTIRE community but let the students lead

Erin Howard, co-founder of KDC and LMCF introducing KDC leaders, Alexis Meza, Diana Banderas, and Pedro Santiago during 2010 LMCF Assembly held at the University of Kentucky.

The sustainability and existence of this program depends on inclusively and on the empowerment of youth and students to lead. Carefully defining the roles of all involved is essential and all roles must be grounded in the mission of the program. Sure, there is not so glamourous work that has to be done like set-up, clean-up, printing, putting together packets, etc. However, through trainings,, we engage volunteers and student leaders as thoroughly as possible. Training sessions should expose all volunteers to the history and the goals of the program, details about DACA, data about educational equity and economic injustices, and resources for underserved students. Providing trainings and detailed communications results in planting seeds of knowledge in educators, community leaders and students from all across the state. This concept has helped us ensure that the in-state tuition policy has been implemented and that institutions of higher learning are aware of our community’s struggles, needs and value.