On one wall of an auditorium in the Adobe offices in Lehi sticky notes written by Latino students highlighting the negative perceptions they faced were stuck to the wall.

On the opposite side of the room, the students had countered with positive things about themselves -- “hardworking,” “bilingual” and “good grades.”

In between these perceptions about 250 Latino students from across Utah were being given an opportunity to realign how they see themselves and their futures, which was the goal of the exercise, Latinos in Action Director of Systems and Operations Isabel Rojas said.

“We want them to know throughout your life and maybe even now people tell you things and you can chose to believe them, but you can choose to be who you are,” Rojas said.

Latinos in Action and Adobe teamed up on Tuesday to encourage students to go after the future they want.

“We want students to feel like they can drive their lives, that they are the ones that determine the outcome, not all these other factors around them,” Rojas said.

Several speakers shared their stories of being Latino in Utah and working to pursue higher education. The students were also given discussion and reflection time.

Lucy Ordaz-Sanchez, a teacher at Dixon Middle School in Provo, brought her students in the elective Latinos in Action class to the event. She said the class encourages students to be active members and leaders in their community.

“I thought the event was a perfect opportunity to be reminded of their leadership responsibilities as being part of the class,” she said. “I also wanted them to be inspired by others.”

One of Ordaz-Sanchez’s students, eighth-grader Jonathan Arias, said he had really enjoyed the messages.

“What I enjoyed about it was when the people came up and spoke to us because it was inspiring,” Arias said.

Rene Salcedo Jr., a student at Salt Lake Community College, shared the difficulties he had gone through while trying to graduate from high school and college, including lack of faith from school leaders and working to support his family.

“I’m here to inspire them and tell them that I’ve gone through that struggle and I’m still going through that struggle of being Latino in higher education,” Salcedo said.

State Senator Luz Escamilla reminded the students that there are always going to be difficulties, but there are people around to help them and that they can do difficult things.

“You guys are part of the change that’s going to happen in the county,” Escamilla said during her talk. “You guys are the future and you are part of the change.”

Shelby Slade is a reporter for the Daily Herald who covers crime and the southern part of Utah County.

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