What does it mean to be a leader? How can I help create a positive environment on my campus? These were just some of the questions explored by the HCC students who participated in the Millennium Leadership Conference, held November 2-3 at Clark University.
The annual conference was created to cultivate the leadership qualities of Massachusetts college students who identify as ALANA (African descent, Latino/a, Asian, and Native American). Through workshops and presentations, participants assessed their campus experiences discussed how each student can play a pivotal role in shaping the culture of his or her campus, and more importantly, how that will translate into a fulfilling college experience.
"Clark University students do a terrific job of organizing this conference," said HCC senior academic counselor Jossie Valentin. "Having it be created and run by students makes it that much more meaningful and empowering. For students of color, the conference provides a safe environment in which to speak openly about their experiences, and a demonstration of the impact they can have working together. It's truly a special event."
Eilianie Alvelo, HCC's LISA (Latino International Students Association) Club President, concurred. "The Conference inspired me to embrace my Latino roots even more, work collaboratively with other student leaders who identify themselves as ALANA, and continue to pursue my education so that I can better serve my community," she said. "The diversity was wonderful and this conference was a great way to understand, embrace and celebrate it!"
Speakers included educator Vernon Wall, who presented "One Better World," an examination of identity, privilege and the path to social justice; and Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, an award-winning poet, actress, playwright and filmmaker. Workshops ranged from "Building & Shaping Multicultural Organizations on Campus" to "Election Matters," a workshop that invited discussion and analysis of the United States presidential election. However, the opportunity to network with other students was clearly a draw for many.
"I got to connect with my fellow HCC students and network with student leaders from various institutions," said Diandra Schloss-Messer, HCC Student Trustee. "The workshops were very informative. We discussed the true meaning of diversity and the various privileges and struggles each of us have in society."
Jonathan Mendez, HCC Music Club President, felt similarly. "My experience at MLC was amazing!" said Mendez. "It taught me a lot and helped me break out of my comfort zone, helping me to speak out... That made it easier to communicate with others there, [and] that has led to me communicating better with people in my community!"
For HCC student Samantha Melendez, the conference sparked revelations. "I learned I was not alone, that my words mattered, and that my experience could teach others," said Melendez. "Most of all, I learned just how important I could be not just to those I care about, but to those I have yet to meet."