With an audience of 5 million-plus for "Ugly Betty" and a camera-lined red carpet for "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" movie premiere, actress America Ferrera is accustomed to large crowds and flashing lights. She will address a relatively smaller crowd at SUU this Thursday, though her impact has the potential to be just as far reaching, when she headlines the SUU Hispanic Center's Latinos in Action Leadership Conference (LIA) on March 6.
Ferrera will seek to inspire future Latino success stories among an audience of 550 high school and middle school students from across southern Utah and northern Arizona. Beyond her celebrity status, Ferrera serves as a great example to Hispanic students across the country, according to Jonathan Puente, interim director of SUU’s Hispanic Center.
“America Ferrera is the perfect fit for what we want to teach these students. Even though she is rich and famous, she made it a priority to attend college and receive a bachelor’s degree,” explained Puente.
The LIA regional conference aims to engage and inspire students in college prep. Students will attend leadership and character development workshops and, most importantly, learn of the many resources and opportunities for student support that make a college degree a reality.
This year's conference theme, “My Duality is My Reality,” was selected to encourage students to see the value and benefit of being part of two cultures and languages, according to Puente.
The LIA conference will be running all day Thursday, offering workshops and speakers across campus. All are invited to hear Ferrera speak at 1:10 p.m. Thursday afternoon in the Student Center Ballroom; however, seating is limited and given first to conference attendees.
Ferrera won the Golden Globe for Best Actress - Television Series Musical or Comedy, the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comdey Series and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
Latinos in Action is a leadership class taught at high schools and junior highs across the state, training students as paraprofessionals, to tutor and mentor in local elementary schools. During one school year each LIA student conducts 100-plus hours of community service. 98 percent of LIA students graduate high school and 80 percent enroll in college.