Multicultural conferences empower students to share stories, pursue higher education

Student-led conferences will be held via Zoom; first one will occur next weekend

This+year%E2%80%99s+annual+Children+of+Aztlan+Sharing+Higher+Education+%28CASHE%29+conference+will+be+held+virtually+Dec.+4-5+because+of+COVID-19.+The+conference+will+offer+financial%2C+admission+and+scholarship+workshops%2C+as+well+as+conversations+on+identity+and+culture+in+the+Latinx+community.

COURTESY OF PHILLIP SINAPATI

This year’s annual Children of Aztlan Sharing Higher Education (CASHE) conference will be held virtually Dec. 4-5 because of COVID-19. The conference will offer financial, admission and scholarship workshops, as well as conversations on identity and culture in the Latinx community.

LOREN NEGRON, Evergreen reporter

Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected to reflect the correct name of the Children of Aztlan Sharing Higher Education (CASHE) conference.

Jocelyn Granados attended a WSU multicultural conference in high school, and it was there that she felt welcomed and empowered to share her story about trying to pursue higher education.

“I think that’s really valuable because it’s really hard for students to share their stories and be in a room with people who support them,” said Granados, junior pre-law political science and psychology dual-degree student.

When Granados attended the Children of Aztlan Sharing Higher Education (CASHE) conference, she said she developed connections with student leaders and learned what she needed to navigate higher education.

Starting in 1997, the student-led CASHE conference has been helping high school students of Chicanx and Latinx backgrounds experience WSU and learn about higher education. It is organized by Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán (MEChA).

Granados said she wants other students to have the same experience she had. Since her first year at the university, she has been involved with CASHE through various roles and now serves as one of the co-chairs.

“I knew I wanted to give back, and it’s just so rewarding,” Granados said. “I think overall it just reminds me of how thankful I am. It keeps me rooted and grounded, that community is everything.”

The annual CASHE conference will be held virtually Dec. 4-5 due to COVID-19, Granados said.

COURTESY OF PHILLIP SINAPTI

The conference will offer financial aid, admission and scholarship workshops to attendees, she said. There will also be a workshop on identities and cultures in the Latinx community.

“Building that community but doing it virtually — we will be incorporating a lot of interactive activities, ice breakers to make sure that the students know they are supported,” Granados said.

ASWSU adviser Phillip Sinapati said it is difficult to engage with students virtually, and the online format presents different issues like accessibility. Many of the attendees are from lower-income families so some may not have access to computers or internet.

He said some students might feel discomfort when attending the event from home.

“The fact that maybe they have to expose their surroundings, their homes, where they come from — that’s being over-vulnerable,” Sinapati said.

CASHE’s theme this year is El Poder del Saber — The Power of Knowing. Granados said the conference will be free because of its virtual format. In the past, registration cost $75.

Granados said care packages will be delivered to those registered for the conference. The packages will have food gift cards, conference shirts and blue light glasses. There will also be giveaways during the conference.

Registration for the CASHE conference will close Oct. 31. High school students can register for the event at cashe.wsu.edu.

Shaping High School Asian Pacific Islanders for the Next Generation (SHAPING) is another student-led multicultural conference that will occur this year. It is scheduled for Oct. 23-24.

The annual event began in 2000 and is geared toward Asian American and Pacific Islander high school students. Like CASHE, SHAPING aims to encourage students to pursue higher education and be effective leaders in their community, said Gabrielle Guerrero, junior human development major and SHAPING co-chair.

She said SHAPING’s theme this year is ARISE: Advocate, Resourceful, Inspire, Succeed and Excel.

During the virtual conference, high schoolers will attend workshops that focus on personal growth and self-care. Other workshops will focus on college and career, said Kairis Jimenez, junior sport management major and SHAPING co-chair.

“It’s also a good way for first-generation students to get some insight on college,” she said, “so it’s a good way for them to get information they can’t get from their parents.”

There will be giveaways during the conference, Jimenez said. Professional dancer Sienna Lalau will be a guest speaker during the event.

Guerrero said she attended SHAPING when she was in high school. The conference encouraged her to attend WSU and inspired her to pass on her wisdom to other high school students.

“Seeing the stories that they told and how they come from all walks of life, it just really touched me and it was very personal,” she said.

This year, SHAPING will be having students from Hawaii and California for the first time, Guerrero said. SHAPING registration was recently closed. About 100 students registered for the event.

In the spring semester, the Visionaries Inspiring Black Empowered Students (VIBES) conference will occur Feb. 12-13. Black Student Union organizes this student-led multicultural conference. VIBES registration is closed as well, according to the conference’s website.

Sinapati, who has helped advise these conferences for six years, said the in-person interaction will be missed this year. There are times during the conferences where students share their stories, he said, which are often vulnerable moments.

“It’s really hard that you can’t reach out and console them or comfort them and provide them with tissues, wipe their tears, hold their hand, let them know that you’re there to support them,” he said.

Sinapati said his work is rewarding because he gets to see the impact of the conferences immediately. Not only does the conferences empower high school students, but it also helps WSU student leaders develop their skills and gives them a space to translate their passions into action.

All conferences are sponsored by ASWSU and Student Involvement, he said. High schoolers interested in attending the conferences next year can email Sinapati at filipo_pls@wsu.edu.