More than a 100 local high school students were on the University of New Mexico campus recently for the first ever Ethnic Studies High School Conference.

The event was organized and hosted by the Chicano/Chicana Studies Student Organization (CCSSO) and the Black Student Union as a way to get students thinking about college and potential degrees they may not have known about, including a variety of ethnic studies programs.

“I really wanted to start pushing the part of having the youth understand ethnic studies and what the true meanings are behind it,” said CCSSO President Cheyenne Trujillo, “and really valuing and appreciating what they can do with a degree in that.”

The event was sponsored by El Centro de la Raza, American Indian Student Services, African American Student Services, Africana Studies, Student Affairs, ENLACE, SHRI (Southwest Hispanic Research Institute) and Chicano/Chicana Studies.

"I really want to make sure that we start pushing our youth to start thinking about their education."  - Cheyenne Trujillo, CCSSO

Trujillo, who also created CCSSO, said students from West Mesa High School, Highland High School, and Rio Grande High School attended the day long event. They listened to presentations on UNM’s admissions process, ethnic studies programs, and got information on a variety of scholarship opportunities. All things Trujillo hopes will help students realize college can be in their future.

“For New Mexico, we have so many Latinos, Hispanics, and Mexican-Americans, so I really want to make sure that we start pushing our youth to start thinking about their education,” she said.

Along with the presentations, organizers also put together small discussion panels to get students interacting and asking questions. Trujillo said that is where she realized the event was making an impact.

“They were very engaged,” she said. “A lot of them were asking great questions about scholarships, what’s the point of the degree in ethnic studies, about an Arizona ban of ethnic studies and how we felt about it. These students were very informed already, and they brought so much more to the panel.”

Local high school student getting information on UNM programs.

“UNM itself has its own culture, has its own traditions, has its own community. So, I really want us to start getting more students who are from New Mexico to come here, but also from other states too,” said Trujillo.

Organizers say they plan to continue the conference in the coming years and hope to get feedback from the high schools and students about what they can improve on. Trujillo said they’d like to make this an annual event as long as they can secure the funding for it in the future.