Some familiar faces were among top youth running the League of United Latin American Citizens National Conference in New York this week.
Seven of the 24 Illinois teens at the conference were from McHenry County, and several of those six held top-ranking national positions in the organization.
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is a volunteer-based civil rights organization and the oldest Hispanic organization in the U.S.
“LULAC really does help a lot of youth and we did inspire a lot of other youth at this convention,” said Roman Rodriguez, a Woodstock High School junior and LULAC’s youth president. “It’s a lot of work but it was definitely well worth the event.”
More than 20,000 people participate in the national convention each year, including top leaders from the government, business and Hispanic community, according to LULAC’s website.
McHenry County youth participated in pre-convention activities earlier this week, and then stuck around for the convention in New York City. The yearly pre-convention slate of youth events was this year hosted at Princeton University in nearby Princeton, New Jersey.
Sergio Perez, a Crystal Lake Central graduate who will head to Northern Illinois University in the fall, said the teens spent the three days learning, participating in panels and sharing their experiences.
“We were just telling stories, really,” said Perez, 18. “Telling them what we’ve been going through and [hearing] what they’ve been going through.”
Perez, the LULAC national youth treasurer, said the Hispanic community benefits from that shared experience.
“As the minority, we are facing a lot of problems,” he said. “We are trying to boost everyone’s confidence and say whatever goal you put in front of yourself, you’ll accomplish that goal. Whatever it is.”
Five other McHenry County students joined Perez and Rodriguez during the week: Mariana Alanis of Crystal Lake, Gabriel Rodriguez of Woodstock, Abram Rodriguez of Woodstock, Ashley Mendoza of Woodstock and Thomas Martinez of Woodstock.
Roman Rodriguez said the group will leave New York City energized, but he added another, unexpected takeaway from the early part of the trip.
“That Princeton is one of our dream schools,” he said. “And that it’s not impossible to get in there.”