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Hispanic Youth Leadership Summit reaches student enrollment capacity at three locations

The program helps Idaho high school students prepare for higher education and careers. State leaders are taking notice of its growth.

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Hispanic Youth Leadership Summit is an annual event to help high school students prepare for higher education.

This year, the summit is taking place at three locations, all of which are at full capacity: 800 enrolled for the Twin Falls summit, 550 for Pocatello, and 600 in the Treasure Valley.

“The need is there, the want is there as well,” said JJ Saldaña, the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs' community resource development specialist.

The summit focuses on leadership skills, a look into different careers like STEM and criminal justice, and scholarship opportunities.

Saldaña says they’ve received over 450 scholarship applications this year. Last year, the commission awarded $7.2 million toward scholarships and hopes to surpass that this year.

“I just love seeing all the kids and the parents getting happy about their college futures,” Saldaña said.

Although student enrollment and retention is increasing each year, Saldaña says state leaders are also working on ways to help increase bilingual educators.

According to Saldaña, 18% of Idaho’s college students but only 3% of faculty are Hispanic or Latinx. To help increase that number, Saldaña says Gov. Brad Little has encouraged a "Grow Your Own Program" that helps bring more bilingual educators to Idaho’s colleges.

"We are at the very beginning stages of it right now, and we are having conversations on how to do that. We want to make sure people end up coming home and staying in Idaho and teaching here in Idaho and being proud of it,” Saldaña said.

The "Grow Your Own Program" is in partnership with the College of Southern Idaho and Lewis-Clark State College. The program is one of many important conversations and changes being discussed at the leadership summit.

The event has become so popular, Saldaña says leaders have suggested adding a second day to future events to help serve more students.

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