The ninth annual Feria de Educación brought approximately 10,000 people to California State University, Northridge on Sept. 23 to show young Latinos the power of education. The day was filled with workshops, a reading garden, information booths and live acts from the stage in front of the Delmar T. Oviatt Library.
The event’s main hallmarks, however, were hope and inspiration — by demonstrating the power and accessibility of education.
“Today, families and students of all ages will have the opportunity to learn more about the resources, career paths and futures made possible through education,” said CSUN President Dianne F. Harrison, during the event’s opening ceremony. “CSUN is proud to educate and empower students from throughout Southern California. I hope that the Feria is the start for many successful educational journeys.”
For Mirna Villanueva, this year’s Feria de Educación served a dual purpose. When she became pregnant with her son, Abraham, Villanueva hit pause on her college education to concentrate on motherhood. Now that Abraham has reached fifth grade, Villanueva said she’s set to return to college. She attended this year’s Feria in search of information and inspiration — for her son and herself.
“He’s already big enough to notice what he wants to be when he grows up,” Villanueva said of her son. “I wanted to establish that relationship between school, me and him. I wanted to teach him how if I can do it, anybody can do it.
“The Feria encouraged him. He said, ‘This is what I want to do when I grow up. I want to be like you. I want to go to school, I want to work hard.’ It encouraged him a lot when I brought him to the Feria, because he saw all the activities. He saw all the things he could do, and all the schools available to him.”
Feria de Educación is a partnership between the California State University (CSU) system and Univision, with CSUN hosting the event for the second year in a row. The day featured workshops and information booths, where attendees could find out more about preparing for college, financial aid, and the higher education programs available in California. An annual highlight of the event came from the Consul General of Mexico, which donated 15,000 books for children of all ages to take home for free.
“There is no tool that is more important than education,” said Adriana Argáiz, Consul for Community Affairs for the Consul General of Mexico for Los Angeles. “Education is the key to the advancement of our community. There is no better place than CSUN to celebrate this magnificent event today.”
Marquita Grenot-Scheyer, CSU assistant vice chancellor for teacher education and public school programs, emphasized the need for people to aspire to become educators.
“Now more than ever we need teachers, counselors and school leaders to teach and inspire the next generation of engineers, scientists, artists, politicians and teachers,” Grenot-Scheyer said. “We need strong and diverse educators who are prepared to work with students, teachers and family members to assure that each student is academically prepared to enter college or the workforce upon graduation.”
The opening ceremony featured a series of special presentations, as four young people received scholarships presented by Wells Fargo, one of the event sponsors. The first recipient was Izzy Argueta, a CSUN freshman majoring in civil engineering. Argueta was born in El Salvador and came to the United States at the age of 5.
Argueta is a recent graduate of Canoga Park High School and is a member of the university’s Bridge to the Future program, which gives scholars like Argueta financial assistance and mentorship on the path to graduation.
“I’m honored because one of the things I take to heart is my education,” Argueta said. “I’m glad I get to be an advocate for these kinds of things, and I hope more people from the Latino community can take advantage of these opportunities.”
Another Wells Fargo scholarship recipient, Jonathan Salcedo, is also a Canoga Park High School graduate — currently attending Pierce College. He’s earmarked the funds for next fall, when he plans to transfer to CSUN and major in computer engineering. He’s already planning to attend graduate school and possibly explore entrepreneurial opportunities in the future.
“This scholarship is really going to help me out a lot,” Salcedo said. “I was really surprised. I did not know there were so many scholarships. It opened my eyes to find more scholarships to continue my education.”
Enlightening young people about those very opportunities is the principal goal of Feria de Educación. With the Latino population continuing to grow, the future will be even brighter for those who complete four-year and advanced degrees. This booming population inspired Univision to partner with the CSU to launch the event nearly a decade ago.
“It’s our mission to empower, help and inspire our community to not only get their bachelor’s degrees, but also master’s and doctorate degrees,” said Gabriela Tessier, an anchor for the Univision morning news show A Primera Hora. “We know very well to not only dedicate our efforts at the college level. We have to start in preschool.”
Villanueva praised the outreach for younger children at the Feria de Educación. Many young participants donned “when I grow up” costumes: doctors, firefighters and many other professions that reflected their dreams.
“It’s very nice how Feria encourages the kids from an early stage to come up and know the different criteria and options that they have available to them, from when they’re small to when they’re adults,” Villanueva said. “I love it because it not only encourages me, but it encourages my son to work hard from an early age.”