Inspiring area high school students pursue a transformative education

Cynthia Vargas, AU '14

Cynthia Vargas, AU '14

“Power up!” That’s the message Aurora University students had for more than 130 teenagers who came to campus from area high schools for an inspiring conference sponsored by the AU Latin American Student Organization (LASO).

“Our primary focus was to enlighten high school students on the importance of attending college and furthering their leadership skills,” said senior business administration and accounting major Cynthia Vargas. “The students attended workshops that allowed them to hear first-hand experiences from current AU students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college.”

The LASO event was created by students for students and is part of the organization’s efforts to promote the pursuit of leadership opportunities, academic success and community service. Creating a forum where high school students interact with 18-25 year olds who can speak directly to them is a natural extension of the organization’s commitment to service and empowerment.

“The college students who participated in the conference had the chance to pass on information, advice and life experiences that they translated into wisdom for our youth,” said Assistant Professor of Foreign Languages and LASO Advisor Eva Serrano.

Brian Espinosa, AU '17

Brian Espinosa, AU '17

AU students were eager to participate and share their stories, remembering well the challenges and questions they had when they were making the decision to attend college.

“I am a first generation college student. During my high school years I was essentially on my own and my parents did not know what to do when it came time for college,” said freshman Brian Espinosa. “They supported me, but I had to navigate the application process on my own. This conference gave me the opportunity to serve as a guide for others.”

Espinosa admits that his college transition may have been easier if he had been given the opportunity to attend an event such as the Power Up! Conference. That’s why he is glad to participate as a mentor now and demonstrate to high school students that the dream of going to college is attainable.

Freshman Catalina Selva did have the opportunity to attend the conference as a high school senior and says the experience encouraged her to pursue a college education.

Catalina Selva, AU '17

Catalina Selva, AU '17

“I remember feeling like I was part of something; I felt empowered and united,” said Selva. “Now I’m the one helping high school students, and it’s a great feeling. I couldn’t be happier with my decision to attend AU where I have the opportunity to give back and empower current high school students.”

LASO members understand that there are many options and decisions that a high school student needs to make about his or her future. The choices they make today can influence the rest of their lives.

“I loved being involved in the conference this year,” said Vargas. “Having the opportunity to share my experiences and my advice with other students was very powerful. I felt like I was truly making a difference in someone’s life.”