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Tulsa Conference Helps Hispanic Boys Beat The Odds

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Hispanics face tough hurdles in education where the drop out rate is twice the national average. Hispanics face tough hurdles in education where the drop out rate is twice the national average.
Tulsa Police Officer Jesse Guardiola spoke about employment goals at the Hispanic Boys Conference. Tulsa Police Officer Jesse Guardiola spoke about employment goals at the Hispanic Boys Conference.
Webster High School senior Jose Vega said he does not want to be limited to what adults might think are traditional Hispanic jobs. Webster High School senior Jose Vega said he does not want to be limited to what adults might think are traditional Hispanic jobs.

By Dan Bewley and Scott Thompson, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- More than 200 young Tulsa Hispanic boys spent the day learning how to be successful in life. It was part of a conference to raise awareness and help a vulnerable part of the Tulsa community.

It was a different kind of day in the classroom for a group of Latino students. The teens are part of the first Hispanic boys conference.

"It's really cool, a lot of fun. We get to see other people's experience," said Jose Vega.

Jose Vega is a senior at Webster High and plans to attend OSU next year, but for many of these kids getting a higher education is a challenge.

Organizers say the goal of the conference is to show the kids the opportunities before them. 

"A lot of these kids are first, second generation here - immigrants and their parents came here for a reason, they came here for a better life. So what better way to fulfill that and to honor their parents is to move forward and to continue to get an education so they can have a better life," said Deborah Easter of the Latina Women's Business Association.

Easter says Latinos face a number of hurdles - from school, where the high school dropout rate is at 21%, more than twice the national average - to crime, where Latino's make up 40% of all sentenced federal offenders.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Hispanics represent 7% of the population in Oklahoma, and 39% under 17 years old live in poverty. The median income is close to $18,000 a year.

Conference leaders say successful Latino's, like Tulsa Police Officer Jesse Guardiola, are good examples for these young men.

Jose Vega agrees, saying it's good for his peers to hear positive stories. He hopes they put the message to good use.

"Their parents might say, 'Oh, we Mexicans do this and this and this.' Well why not break out of that," high school senior Jose Vega said.

This is the first year organizers have included boys in the conference; the last three it's been girls only. They plan to do it again next year.

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