Annual HALO Conference spreads diversity among students

Sophia Comas, Online Editor-in-Chief

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The Kansas State Student Union filled with high school students left and right as each person fought for a spot on the dance floor within the main ballroom. Past the banquet tables full of tortilla chips and Qdoba-brand taco fillings, the floor pulsed to the beat of loud music made by men playing saxophones, guitars and accordions. It swelled around the swaying crowd of students who flowed to the sounds created by the band decked in sequined jackets, screaming their “gritos” into the mics. 

That ballroom held hundreds of people who came to experience everything offered at the 13th Annual Midwest Hispanic American Leadership Organization Encuentro hosted at K-State last Tuesday.

The majority of that experience promoted culture and diversity, emphasizing that expression and self-identity are some of the most important factors in what makes a person who they are. It showcased key aspects to Hispanic lifestyles, which is why the band and the dancing were essential to the entertainment portion of the conference. 

According to Hispanic Club Vice President Jaqueline Hernandez, junior, both the keynote speaker and the breakout sessions afterward provided the most insight into getting to know other cultures.

“The breakout sessions were really, really good, especially the one I went to because we got to know the people around us,” Hernandez said. “I didn’t know anyone but then you get to find out new things that you’re going to want to know about later.”

Before the breakout sessions, every attendee listened to a speech by Jaime Carias, the civic engagement coordinator at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He focused on how someone’s background doesn’t determine their future, elaborating on how both of his parents worked low income jobs in a dangerous neighborhood in California. 

“The speaker was really good this year,” Hernandez said. “Everything was more informative.” 

Along with students who had familiarity with the event, such as Hernandez, others came without any knowledge or expectations.

“It felt weird being in a Spanish community,” Jacob Grace, senior, said. “It was weird being a minority, especially when compared to the Hispanic cultures.”

Grace, a student in both AP Spanish Language and AP Spanish Literature, went as a non-heritage attendee in order to broaden his experiences with cultures other than his own. Although his favorite part of the day was the fiesta succeeding the conference, he also values the takeaways from his sessions, which centered around navigating cultural differences and the truth behind cultural discovery. 

“It was interesting to see it’s purpose of how it relates to Spanish culture compared to American culture,” Grace said. “It was nice being there and experiencing the Hispanic culture.”

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