The Idaho Hispanic Youth Symposium helps teens navigate higher ed

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The Idaho Hispanic Youth Symposium helps teens navigate higher ed

The Idaho Hispanic Youth Symposium helps teens navigate higher ed

For many Latino students in Idaho, the complexities of preparing for higher education is enough to thwart their dreams of attending college or vocational training.

Luckily, volunteers from across Idaho come together to guide and encourage these students at the annual Idaho Hispanic Youth Symposium (HYS). At this weekend event, 100+ Latino students gather on an Idaho college campus to begin their journeys to success after high school.

“It’s imperative for kids who may not have the same access or who may face more obstacles to be able to get their foot in the door, when it comes to higher education and career options,” says Blanca Biladeau, chair of the HYS Alumni Association and co-chair of this year’s program.

Students stay in dorms, giving them a taste of college life and helping them envision themselves in an academic environment. Throughout the weekend, they’ll work with a mentor (their HYS mamá or papá) to navigate the college application process; participate in team-building workshops; and, most important, be exposed to possibility.

We want them to see what opportunities are out there—and also how to prepare for those opportunities,” says Biladeau, who attended the event in 1997. “For example, if a student wants to go to medical school, we help them understand the requirements. We tell them what they need to be doing now to be successful later.”

Mentors work with each student throughout the weekend, focusing on specific goals and next steps and, often, providing reassurance. “It’s good for the students to understand that their mentors have also felt alone and unsure how to go about pursuing higher education,” explains Biladeau. (The student’s mentor is available throughout the student’s senior year, offering support as they decide on a school, navigate the application and financial aid process; and choose coursework.)

Representatives from colleges and vocational schools are on hand at HYS to answer questions and talk to students about their programs and application processes. Representatives often attend the HYS sessions and eat meals with attendees so they can get to know students in a low-key environment.

Idaho Hispanic Youth Symposium team-building exercise

Another focus of HYS is teaching students how to engage in civic matters. In one workshop, Issues to Action, student groups develop solutions to issues of concern in their communities. “We have students who didn’t think they could make an impact in their community,” says Biladeau. “They’ll be astounded at what they actually can accomplish in such a short time.”


The 2017 HYS will be July 28–29 at the College of Idaho in Caldwell.

Register by May 19 at


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