Delaware’s first-ever Latinos Unidos Summit aims to empower Latino students and others

Nearly 200 Latino students will take part in the summit that’s designed to build community among young people throughout Delaware.

The official front logo on the shirts giving to students at the event

The official front logo on the shirts that will be given to students at Delaware’s first-ever Latinos Unidos Summit. (courtesy of Latinos Unidos student Summit)

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It started as a conversation among Latino students at Hodgson Vocational Technical High School.

Students in the school’s Spanish club wanted to build better connections with bring Latino students from across the state. Their teacher then helped them coordinate with the Delaware Racial Justice Collaborative to create Delaware’s first Latino Unidos Student Summit which is planned for this Saturday at Hodgson.

The students hope to build a united Latino community, a goal that was inspired by the Black Student Summit held earlier this year.

“We are attempting to establish a community and attempting to give people access to information and connections,” said Oscar Hageman, a senior at the Cape Henlopen High School. “This is a good opportunity to meet people across the state that come from a similar background of Latino students that are looking [for] possibly similar interests, maybe different interests, but are all looking to build a community.”

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Oscar Hagmen, a senior Cape Henlopen High School. has been closely working with the summit and is attending the event
Oscar Hageman, a senior Cape Henlopen High School,has been closely working with the summit and is attending the event. (Courtesy of Hageman)

The Delaware Hispanic Commission and the United Way of Delaware’s Delaware Racial Justice Collaborative are helping the students with both funds and guidance, but all decisions about the summit are made by 24 members of the student planning committee from across the state.

“It has been so heartwarming, so encouraging, and so inspiring for me to work with these students to help bring their vision to life, which is really celebrating the culture of Latinos and Hispanics during Hispanic Heritage Month,” said Raina Allen, DRJC’s director. “Also, scaling up student voices in schools, and alongside the adults who serve them and their allies.”

“We need to learn and build bridges,” she added.

DHC’s Laura Gendreau called the summit “a great opportunity to really empower the youth of our state and have an opportunity to really give them a platform for their voice.”

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Hageman, who has both white and Colombian backgrounds, talked with other members of the planning committee about the importance of unification, but also expanding cultural awareness and a sense of belonging for people like himself.

He feels like he has to work a bit harder to fit in certain circles and questions himself if he’s “Latino enough.”

“Sometimes I feel a little bit out of place, sometimes I feel like I’m between worlds,” he said. “I’m not fully anything, and I think that a lot of people can probably relate to that.”

Hageman laughed explaining how that duality played out in his family. “My white grandparents would give me a Lego set for Christmas, and my abuelo would like to try to ship us fruit.”

He said this event will align with his desire to know more about his culture. He encouraged people with diverse backgrounds to join the conversation, Latino or not.

The summit will be held at Hodgson Vo-Tech in Newark in the northern part of the state. That could create a potential transportation burden for students like Hagmen, who reside in southern Delaware, where there’s a larger concentration of Latino residents.

“We talked about transportation pretty early on, and I mentioned that it would be pretty difficult for a lot of students to make it up there,” he said. “I doubled down on how that’s kind of vital to engaging students.”

After talking about the issue in biweekly zoom meetings, the group decided to provide transportation for students up and down the state at select locations.

The summit will feature multiple sessions, covering topics chosen by the students, including “Immigration and Laws,” “Mental Health and Generational Trauma,” “Sexualization of Hispanic Women and Machismo,” “College Application and Funding Process for First-Generation Students”, as well as “Dance and Cultural Traditions.”

As valuable as the summit will be for students, organizers say it’s equally important to educate school advisors, teachers, and administrators. Additional workshops will be available for those individuals.

“There’s also a workshop for teachers, advisors, and educators to talk about how to better support Latino-serving affinity groups and school groups,” said Raina.

Latinos Unidos Student Summit takes place on Saturday, Sept. 16 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Hodgson Vo-Tech High School in Newark, Delaware. They’ve exceeded their initial goal of 100 attendees, with 170 people planning to participate.

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