UC Riverside-Sponsored Puente Conference Promotes Leadership, Community Involvement

Sixty community college students to participate in 10-day conference beginning July 12

During the 2012 Puente Conference, these students participated in a mock city council meeting and took on the roles of the mayor, council members and city residents.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Sixty community college students who are part of the statewide Puente Leadership program will arrive at the University of California, Riverside on July 12, 2013 for a 10-day residential conference that promotes leadership and community involvement.

Established in 2008 and sponsored by UC Riverside Undergraduate Admissions, the sixth annual UCR Puente Leadership Conference runs from July 12-21, 2013 at the UCR campus. Participants are largely low-income and first-generation college students.

“The conference teaches students about the importance of continuing their education at a four year institution, community involvement, and being engaged in leadership at their current academic institutions and in the community,” said Ricardo Vargas, assistant director of transfer recruitment & evaluation and co-founder of the conference. “Under the core belief that all students have leadership potential, the program has been designed to help each student explore their own individuality while affirming their cultural capital and diverse political views.”

Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey spoke at the 2012 Puente Conference.

Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey spoke at the 2012 Puente Conference.

The program consists of seminars that develop confidence, leadership skills, political awareness, and cultural self-identity, a daily writing course and personal development workshops. Previous guest speakers have included former Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge, current Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey, Congressman Raul Ruiz and State Assembly Member Manuel Perez. Attendees will stay in the UC Riverside residence halls and eat meals in the residential restaurants.

Puente Conference participants have gone on to attend each of the University of California schools, as well as California State University schools and private schools including Loyola Marymount University, the University of Southern California and the University of the Pacific.

“There are not that many summer conferences for community college students out there,” said Karolia Macias, an admissions counselor at UCR and one of the coordinators of the conference. “Some of these students will discover their inner leader and all leave empowered to get involved in their communities.”

The conference is a collaborative partnership between UC Riverside and the statewide Puente Project, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2012. The Puente Program, co-sponsored by the University of California Office of the President and the California Community College Chancellors Office, works to increase the number of educationally underrepresented students who enroll in four-year colleges and universities, earn degrees, and return to their communities as leaders and mentors to future generations.

Monica Searcy, who participated in the conference in 2012 while a sophomore at Moreno Valley College, said that it was challenging, yet rewarding.

“Ten days seemed like an eternity to be away from my home, but I think it was the best 10 days of my life. I learned how to be a leader and how to get involved with my community,” she said, adding that she also learned a lot about herself. “Not only that I can survive 10 days without my family, but that in such a short time I could make friends that will last a lifetime.”

It is comments like Searcy’s that are music to the ears of Macias.

“The best reward I have is when I hear students saying ‘his conference changed my life’ or ‘I will become the first person in my family to earn a PhD,'” Macias said. “Hearing those comments is priceless.”

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-4756
E-mail: john.warren@ucr.edu

Additional Contacts

Karolia Macias, Undergraduate Admissions
Tel: (951) 827-5307
E-mail: karolia.macias@ucr.edu

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