Latino teens brainstorm plans to help community

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They weren't your typical grant proposals.

One involved a skit about a teen being told he can't go to college. Another group did school chants to warm up the audience before pitching their idea.

But the grant proposals from participants at the Latino Leadership Symposium at Utah Valley University on Friday had a common element: Latino teens helping their community.

"Our motto is 'Plant the seed,'" said Cindy Munoz, a student at Mountain View High School in Orem.

And Munoz's classmates got $1,000 from Utah Community Credit Union to plant their seed: a program to help families become successful.

The conference, sponsored by UVU and the credit union, brought together 300 Latino students from Logan to Sanpete County to discuss leadership ideas.

While this was the conference's fifth year, Friday's marks the first time students were challenged to come up with a way to help their communities.

"The idea was that they can serve today," said Jose Enriquez, vice principal at Mountain View High and director of Latinos In Action, a program that trains Latino youth as mentors.

"The kids presenting the action plans are saying 'We're in this together.'"

Jorge Aguero, the credit union's director of Latin-American marketing and development, said picking a winning plan was tough; they all had great merits.

The students were divided into teams, some putting rivals such as Provo and Independence high schools together at the same table,. They were given an hour to come up with both ideas and a plan to put them into place.

"We were impressed with the plans," said Aguero, who was one of several judges reviewing the proposals. He said the important thing was not just the idea, but that there was a plan to implement it.

He said the students will have to show at next year's conference how the plan worked.

The Mountain View plan involved a program to teach families skills such as English proficiency to help them succeed. Lexie Parras explained that education was the only long-term solution to problems facing families.

"If you give someone food, once the food is gone they're hungry again," Parras said.

Aguero said the Mountain View team will have to share its prize money with Orem and Lakeshore junior highs as part of the plan.

The team representing Springville, Spanish Fork and Salem Hills high schools received $500 to implement their "Nebo United" plan to do community service and sponsor activities to promote tolerance.

Provo and Independence high schools received $250 for its "Raise the Bar" plan to encourage academic excellence.

Yvette Cruz, a Provo High student, said she and the students from Independence, an alternative high school, were committed to moving ahead -- even if they didn't win any cash.