Actress America Ferrera Speaks At UVU Latinos In Action Conference
March 12, 2014
For Immediate Release
University Marketing & Communications: Melinda Colton
Actress America Ferrera was the keynote speaker at Utah Valley University Tuesday, March 11, as it hosted nearly 2,000 students at its annual Latinos in Action Leadership Conference. Ferrera urged the students to “dream big, embrace who you are and learn what you can give.”
High school, junior high and middle school students gathered at UVU for the daylong conference that centered on the theme “My Duality is My Reality.” The conference helps Latino youth understand they have two amazing cultures they can use to navigate the educational system.
“My mom was determined that my siblings and I would get an education. She knew that was the ticket to a better life for us,” said Ferrera whose parents immigrated to the United States from Honduras.
She encouraged the students to learn who they are and discover the contributions they will make to their communities. “You don’t have to fit yourself into some mold to make a difference,” she said. “Do not waste your energy trying to change yourself. Focus your energy inward. Come to know yourself.”
Ferrera, who has been honored for being a role model for young Latinas, reminded the students that genuine success is measured by how much good they will do in the world. “Live your life in a way that spreads dignity … If you are not sure how to, begin to engage in your world.”
The actress won critical acclaim for her performance in “Real Women Have Curves” (2002) and gained more attention for “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” (2005). She became a star when she took on the title role in the television series “Ugly Betty.” In 2007, she received a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award and an Emmy Award for her performance as Betty Suarez. “Ugly Betty” finished its run in 2010, but Ferrera stayed busy. She was cast in a recurring role in the TV drama “The Good Wife” and appeared on London’s West End as Roxie Hart in the musical “Chicago.”
She said one of the best ways to be engaged in today’s society is to vote. “I believe so strongly that this country would change if the people in this room would register to vote. There are a lot of politicians counting on the fact that you will not show up to vote. Minority youth voters play a huge part in elections. You cannot sit and wait for someone to be part of the conversations that determine your life.”
“Use your voices. Believe that what you think and what you do matters — that you matter. Dream big, embrace who you are and learn what you can give,” said Ferrera, who has ben named one of Time magazine’s most influential people.
The UVU Latinos in Action Program trains secondary education students to become paraprofessionals and acquire leadership skills through mentoring and serving as role models for local elementary school students, said Yudi Lewis, director of UVU’s Latino Initiative.
The conference’s focus is to motivate, engage and empower young Latinas and Latinos to reach their greatest potential through education. The conference also connects students with education, business and community leaders and allows them to hear and discuss ways to improve their experiences in the Utah education system.
Author and educator Washington B. Collado also addressed the Latino high school students on the principles of leadership.