The year 2020 marks the start of a new decade and it signals change. More and more parents of Latinx high school students want their children to succeed and they seek the help of role models in their communities to aid their children to go to college.
Inland Empire Future Leaders Program (IEFLP) offers leadership development, cultural pride, and educational awareness to Latinx eighth- and ninth-grade students from schools representing San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, and Los Angeles counties.
This past week, IEFLP held its 36th Annual conference via an online program. Over 100 Latinx eighth- and ninth-grade students and 60 volunteer staff participated in the online conference. The traditional conference was transformed into a three-day online experience to prioritize student and staff public health safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. R.C. Heredia, an alumnus of Colton High School, UCLA, and Pepperdine Univ. and chair of the IEFLP Board of Directors shares, “The IEFLP Board of Directors made the wise decision that, while it would have been justified and “safe” to cancel our 2020 program completely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the high school students and college students in our communities, and their families, need programs like IEFL to support them and provide resources and hope during this time especially.”
Delegates (a name used to address the participants of the conference) were still able to have an enriching experience hearing from guest speakers including Congressman Pete Aguilar, Netflix’s Gentefied Co-Director Marvin Lemus, renowned artist and author Simon Silva, and Civil Rights Activist Dolores Huerta. Along with inspiring keynote sessions, delegates also participated in meaningful workshops addressing mental health, college readiness, Latinx culture, and career panels.
At the end of the conference, delegate Alyssa LaQue expressed the positive impact that IEFL had on her as she recalls, “I learned from this whole experience that it’s okay to accept who I am, and not let anyone bring me down as a person. And that no matter my race or gender I can do anything I want. And if people don’t believe in me that’s fine because I believe in myself.”
IEFLP’s goals are to motivate Latinx students to graduate from high school, strive for academic excellence, become leaders in school, and in their communities, and eventually, earn a college degree. Over 4,400 students have participated in the program, which commenced in 1985. The program’s popularity and effectiveness among students, parents, educators, and community supporters can be shown from yearly surveys since 1990, which indicates that 99 percent of student participants graduate from high school and 90 percent attend college. For the past thirty-five years, Inland Empire Future Leaders has helped many of its delegates attend and graduate from: Harvard, Notre Dame, Pepperdine, Stanford, UCLA, USC, UCR, UCSB, UCSD, CSUSB and the list goes on and on. Many of the conference’s delegates have gone on to become: lawyers, teachers, doctors, professors, filmmakers, journalists, and even congressmen (U.S. Members of Congress Pete Aguilar and Dr. Raul Ruiz).
In addition to the conference program, the 2020 IEFLP included scholarship awards. The 2020 IEFL Art Arzola Scholarship ($1,500) was awarded to Jose Trejo-Antonio. The first Segura Family Scholarship ($2,500) was awarded to Maria Selene Castillo. Both of these scholarships will continue to support the Inland Empire youth in their educational endeavors and become leaders in their communities.
The 2020 IEFL virtual conference was a great learning experience in the potential of providing educational and inspirational content to students via an online format. The 100% volunteer staff committed countless hours to ensure delegates gained the best experience amid current public health challenges. Arturo Rodriguez, a senior programming coordinator, shares that “IEFL 2020 was definitely one for the books! It was a massive undertaking to develop our conference in a virtual setting, but we somehow managed to do so and very successfully if I might add. Our team managed to deliver the same magic and impact, and that was the best feeling to be a part of something new and special.”
Funding for the program is provided through individuals, community groups, businesses, foundations, school districts, and government agencies. Donations are currently being collected at www.iefl.com and also via snap raise at https://www.snap-raise.com/v2/fundraisers/inland-empire-future-leaders-2020#/. IEFLP encourages you to visit our website at www.iefl.org, add us on Facebook at Inland Empire Future Leaders Program, and/or follow us on Instagram at @ieflp.