LASO Conference Builds Latino Confidence

Walt Whitman Principal Ms. Kathie Acker (left), congratulates her students and ESL teacher Mr. Luigi Capizzano (right).
Walt Whitman Principal Ms. Kathie Acker (left), congratulates her students and ESL teacher Mr. Luigi Capizzano (right).
On the Stony Brook campus left to right back row: Mr. Luigi Capizzano, Witman Hernandez Fernandez, Carlos Granados, and Jose Nativi.  Ladies in the front row left to right: Doris Romero Ramos, Sindy Reyes Diaz, Vanessa Fuentes, Cindy Barahona Vallecillo, and Reina Garcia Ulloa.
On the Stony Brook campus left to right back row: Mr. Luigi Capizzano, Witman Hernandez Fernandez, Carlos Granados, and Jose Nativi. Ladies in the front row left to right: Doris Romero Ramos, Sindy Reyes Diaz, Vanessa Fuentes, Cindy Barahona Vallecillo, and Reina Garcia Ulloa.

A group of eight Latino students from Walt Whitman High School attended a Latin American Student Organization (LASO) conference at Stony Brook University and gained valuable experience that they are still talking about. “If your willing to work really hard and go to college, you can become anything you want,” said Whitman junior Reina Ulloa. Fellow student Witman Hernandez agreed, noting, “The conference illustrated to me that I have the potential to succeeded in whatever area I choose. It helped me to see that I have what it takes to go to college and follow my dreams,” said the Whitman junior, who would like to use his soccer skills to help him attend a good university where he would like to pursue studies in medicine.

Many of the conference speakers were Stony Brook graduates from various Latino cultures, who spoke about their life experiences and described how they overcame many obstacles to get to where they are. “I thought it was a successful conference because of the speakers,” said Reina Ulloa. “One of the speakers talked about his journey to become a medical forensic expert and because of what he said, inspired me to want to work really hard, and I know I can do it.”

Both Jose A. Nativi and Carlos Granados were impressed with what the conference speakers said to them. “The personal narratives from the speakers were particularly interesting because you see that they shared similar experiences as me,” said Jose. “You have to work hard for everything, but you can do it.”

“Many of the speakers came from similar backgrounds in so far as coming to America later in life, like as a teenager, so I take inspiration from their successes,” said Carlos Granados.  “They gave me strength, and I know that I can go to college where I would like to study one the sciences.” 

One of the speakers made a significant impact on Whitman junior Sindy Reyes.  “Dr. Fernandez, who pioneered many areas for Latino’s in medicine, spoke about his journey, and he made me realize that I can do it. I would like to go to college to study forensic science.”

This year, Whitman ESL teacher Luigi Capizzano chaperoned our students and wasn’t surprised by what he experienced. “The students nominated to attend this conference have a lot of potential,” said Mr. Capizzano. “These students are all college bound, hard working and upstanding citizens at Walt Whitman High. This is the ‘cream of the crop’ as selected by their individual teachers.”

Being of Cuban ancestry, Mr. Capizzano is inspired when he sees other Latino students succeed. “I’ve known many of these students for years now and it’s an inspiring and gratifying experience to see how they have grown into wonderful young men and ladies,” said Mr. Capizzano. “I’m really proud of them.”

The confidence that these students possess with didn’t just begin at the LASO Conference. Their confidence has been a building process that began to take off the moment they moved into the South Huntington School District and entered its ESL/Dual Language Program, coordinated by Ms. Cecilia Blanco. “I came here in the 6th-grade not knowing any English,” said Reina Ulloa.  “But the ESL program is really good, and I knew that I needed to work really hard. Now I’m helping to out in ESL to teach other Latinos.”

“The ESL Program is my favorite part of high school,” said Witman Hernandez. “When I came here, the ESL Program made me feel like I was part of the student body, I didn’t feel isolated.”

Walt Whitman senior Carlos Granados summed up his experience perfectly, saying: “I recognized that it was an honor and privilege to be nominated to be a part of this group of students to go to the LASO conference and I thank the ESL Department for helping me get there.”