Hundreds of students attend Alsame Conference at Davenport University

More than 200 Latino high school students from across the state recently descended on Davenport University’s Grand Rapids Lettinga Campus to attend the Advocates for Latino Student Advancement in Michigan (Alsame) Spring Conference.

Alsame is a non-profit organization that has been advocating for Latino students and their desire to go to college for more than 50 years. Partnering with colleges and universities to host events, like the annual Spring Conference, is just one way that Alsame achieves its mission to assist Latino students in their pursuit of higher education.

Davenport President Richard J. Pappas said hosting the Alsame conference is a perfect fit for the university and pairs nicely with its new Casa Latina bilingual program.

“Our goal with Casa Latina is to increase the number of Latinos who have earned college degrees,” said Pappas. “Hosting these students for the Alsame Conference exposes them to Davenport and lets them know college is possible.”

The students enjoyed a number of educational and fun activities throughout the day-long conference, including several workshops of their choosing, a college and career fair, and a campus tour.

Students heard from keynote speaker Cynthia Martinez, a second-generation Mexican-American from Holland, Michigan. Martinez spoke about her impactful roles at Univision News in Miami and her work directing and producing films and media that champion social justice causes.

Her message echoed the mission of the documentary “FirstVoice Generation,” which aims to break the cycle of generational poverty by sharing stories of Latinx high school students in Holland, Michigan. Despite facing challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the film illustrates their determination to overcome obstacles and pursue their dreams of higher education.

Conference participants and Latino leaders had an opportunity to discuss various topics affecting the Latino community with Adnoris “Bo” Torres and Santiago Gayton via their live “Talking with the Tíos” podcast.

The students were also treated to a live performance from the award-winning Ballet Folklorico de la Luz. The performers from Central Michigan University, Western Michigan University and Grand Valley State University use dance and acting as a way to showcase Mexico’s colorful heritage and folklore.

“Alsame works to improve the number of Latinos who earn a bachelor’s degree, and Davenport is honored to be involved with the group and the students they serve,” said Carlos Sanchez, executive director for Casa Latina.

For Alejandra Guillen, director of marketing and recruitment for Casa Latina, hosting the Alsame Conference marks a significant milestone in the university’s history.

“It’s a testament to Davenport’s commitment to empowering young minds and fostering a community of diverse perspectives. Together, we’re shaping a future where every voice is heard and celebrated,” said Guillen.


Kevin Mejia from Hope Academy West Michigan: “I came to the conference to find out if it will be possible for me to attend college. My favorite part of the conference was the college fair because I got to talk to the college reps.”

Rosy Gonzalez, from Cesar Chavez Academy: “What I found most beneficial was learning how to apply to college, how to access scholarships and all of the different resources available.”

Eric Jimenez, Grand Rapids Catholic Central: “It was nice to learn about different colleges and career paths and how to access resources available to Latinos.”




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