Jim Chavez, the Exeuctive Director of the Latin American Educational Foundation in Colorado is our guest blogger.
I recently had an amazing experience. Our organization, the Latin American Educational Foundation (LAEF), was invited to visit the White House and participate in the arrival ceremony welcoming Mexican President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and his wife Mrs. Margarita Zavala during their State Visit to Washington D. C. While this experience in itself was wonderful, the most amazing part of the trip was seeing our nation’s capital through the eyes of our youth. We were fortunate enough to bring three of our brightest students along for the experience: Adrian Chavez, sophomore at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Miranda Aragon, junior at University of Colorado at Boulder, and Ashley Maestas, junior at Adams State College.
For Adrian, this was his first time on an airplane. And although Miranda and Ashley have traveled outside of Colorado before, this was their first experience with our nation’s capital. The wonderment and enthusiasm these students displayed during their visit to Washington, D.C. was truly humbling. I felt pride and optimism standing on the South Lawn of the White House with these students, knowing that they are our future leaders.
One specific moment during dinner impressed upon me the power of this experience for these students. We treated the students to one of D.C’s great seafood restaurants, with the strict rule that no one could order hamburgers or pizza. The look of interest filled with a touch of anxiety was memorable as the students tried oysters, crab cakes, mussels, and clams for the first time in their life.
I realized that this trip marked a turning point in the students’ lives, as they stood there in awe while observing the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and Holocaust Museum. The official welcome ceremony in itself was an overwhelming experience for the students as well, witnessing President Obama officially greet President Calderon and experiencing the full pomp and circumstance of an official State Visit, including the military honor guard and 21-gun salutes.
Adrian, Miranda, and Ashley had worked so hard to represent their communities and honor their parent’s commitment to education and now they were being rewarded by being exposed to a world they had only read about in their history and civics books. Never have I believed more in the saying that “high expectations sets the bar for high achievements” than I did after this trip, watching these young adults conduct themselves with professionalism far beyond their 19 years of age.
This transformational experience would not have a been a reality if not for the unwavering support of Southwest Airlines and their commitment to bring about positive change in the lives of our students. Southwest Airlines provided the roundtrip airfare for our organization and the students to fly to D.C. Southwest Airlines continues to demonstrate their faith in our students through the wonderful partnership and support they give to the Latin American Educational Foundation, and we could not be more appreciative of their commitment to our mission.
Founded in 1949, LAEF has established itself, as a leader in meeting the higher education needs of Hispanic students through scholarships and support programs. LAEF is the oldest organization of its kind in Colorado, providing access to higher education for Hispanics and advancing the education and economic status of Hispanic students. To date, we have awarded more than 5,600 scholarships to deserving scholars. To learn more about our organization visit us at www.laef.org