Orem • José Enrique, a Savadoran immigrant who arrived in Los Angeles as a child, remembers the teacher who gave him the book that changed his life.
Her name was Miss Yard, he said during a session at the Governor's Native American Summit on Wednesday at Utah Valley University. Enrique, then a fifth-grader, needed to learn more English.
The book was titled, Photosynthesis, he said. "All of a sudden, I got excited about learning."
Today Enrique, an educator, runs Latinos in Action, a nonprofit junior high, high school and higher education program that emphasizes cognitive, social and linguistic skills that can help Latino students to become role models, mentors and tutors for their peers and younger students.
Some Utah Pacific Islander students have formed a group called People of the Pacific, and Enrique believes Native Americans in Utah can benefit, too.
"I would love to help if they want to do that," he said. "I'm talking to some people at the Ute Nation, and it's looking like it's possible. It's just a matter of time, and what their leaders want to do."
Above all, Enrique said, "I'm very hopeful about youth. The best way to help is to teach them that leadership is service and teaching them to read. Kids keep journals, they must reflect, 'where am I and where am I going?' If you're coasting through school, you're not reflecting."
Latinos in Action has been adopted in about 108 Utah high schools and has chapters in every state college and university, Enrique said.
One of them is Payson High School, where Principal Ben Ford said the program has been "a great addition to our school, with a lot of kids involved. Overall, it's been great for the entire student body."
According to Enrique, Latinos in Action students have a 98 percent high school graduation rate and 85 percent rate of acceptance into college.
Enrique, who has a doctorate in educational leadership from Brigham Young University, works half-time as director of diversity in the Alpine School District and spends the rest of his time working with Latinos in Action.
The Native American summit continues Thursday with presentations ranging from Indian child welfare to how national health insurance reform will affect the Indian Health Service, tribal and urban Indian programs.