From Cal-in-Sac to LULAC: Helping to Organize the 2015 National Youth Convention

My involvement in Cal-in-Sac during the 2014 cycle has dramatically opened doors for me in ways I could not have imagined. Aside from gaining mentorship and networks in Sacramento, I was able to get a letter of recommendation from my former supervisor, the principal consultant for the California Latino Legislative Caucus, to be a participant in the UCDC Program in my final semester as an undergrad in the Spring of 2015.

For my UCDC internship I worked at the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in Washington, D.C. as the Education and Youth Leadership Programs Intern. As an intern, I assisted in their nationally recognized programs, especially the Ford Driving Dreams Through Education grants (FDD), a program that gives grants to LULAC members who create programming with localized approaches that are aimed at reducing high school dropout rates among Latino youth. Upon graduation and completion of my internship, I was offered a fellowship to continue the incredible work that I was doing in D.C. but through their Sacramento regional office.

My first day back at LULAC was June 1st and right away I was put to work, just like I was on my first day of my internship in D.C. On my first day of my fellowship I helped with the planning of the LULAC National Youth Pre-Convention and Convention and the FDD Program. The LULAC National Youth Convention is held in parallel to the adult convention and was held July 6th to the 11th this year at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. During the Pre-convention, LULAC Youth from across the country stay in dorms and are offered workshops that will prepare them for college. The University of Utah has an incredible Olympic-sized stadium! During the Pre-Convention, I was a lead organizer and panelist for a panel on the First Generation Latina College Experience. I also organized a community service project for the youth at the local Wasatch Community Gardens. In addition, I moderated a panel called "McFarland USA, How Los Hermanos Diaz Changed Their Community.” During this panel, which was sponsored by Walt Disney Studios, we showed a clip of interviews of community members from McFarland, Ca (the town that the movie is based off), and then had the real Damacio Diaz, David Diaz, and Daniel Diaz speak on the panel. In addition, Disney was able to bring Carlos Pratts, an actor that played one of the leading roles during the movie.

After the Pre-Convention, the main Convention was held in the Salt Palace Convention Center. During that time LULAC Youth were also provided with workshops and activities for leadership development. For example, I helped organize a workshop in which Fernando Rojas, a first generation student who recently made national news for being accepted into all Ivy League universities, came to talk about the college admissions process and give advice on what to do for college applications. In addition, I helped put together a workshop in which the creator of Flamin Hot Cheetos, Mr. Richard Montanez, came to speak to students about identity and cultural background, and also to encourage them to be different and market their differences so that they can have a success story like his. He went from being a janitor to an executive at PepsiCo and is a pioneer in Latino foods marketing and branding. Finally, I was able to organize a panel called “LULAC Corporate Alliance Mentorship Power Hour” in which I worked with LULAC’s Development and Corporate Relations Team to bring top executives from Nissan, AT&T, Western Union, Univision, Walmart, NCTA, and Shell to speak with the youth about their career paths and give them advice on what they can do to be successful no matter which career path they chose.

Organizing these activities for the youth was one of many things I was able to be involved with. Another event I was able to help with was the Youth and Young Adults Awards Banquet, where I met Taboo, one of the singers of the Black Eyed Peas! I was so busy going back and forth that I had not realized he was sitting right next to me until one of my colleagues pointed him out! He was so humble and down to earth, which I really appreciated. I also got to meet Angelica Vale, a well-known singer, actress, and television personality in Latin America. I grew up watching her soap operas and was so excited to meet her in my hotel lobby, take a picture and watch her Emcee one of our events. The list goes on of the things that I was able to be involved with and even greater is the list of everything that every LULAC staff member helped organize throughout the week. Utah’s Senator and even the U.S. Surgeon General were able to come speak to all LULAC members. LULAC's convention is definitely a nationally recognized event which has drawn up to 20,000 people in the past. I am very fortunate that not only was I able to attend, but also given responsibilities, that I was able to take the lead in workshops and activities that positively affect young people’s lives across the nation. The Cal-in-Sac program definitely helped prepare me professionally with my summer internship, preparing me for the responsibilities that I now have at LULAC.

Jackie Caro-Sena graduated from UC Berkeley in 2015 with a degree in Ethnic Studies and American Studies with a Concentration in Social Policy and Inequalities. In 2014 she interned for the California Latino Legislative Caucus as a Cal-in-Sacramento intern, and now works as the Education and Youth Programs Fellow at the League of United Latin American Citizens.