What would it take to close the Latino achievement gap? That’s the question that a powerful, passionate group of teachers, administrators, authors, politicians and entrepreneurs and students asked at an invigorating all-day summit at Chapman University on Friday, September 14, aptly called the Closing the Latino Achievement Gap Summit, or CLAGS. This was the 4th annual CLAGS Summit, which was started at Cal State University, Fullerton.

Our Chancellor, Daniele Struppa, gave his welcoming remarks in Spanish (with an Italian accent, I’m told), which I am told was quite impressive to our audience.  A special sneak peak announcement occurred as well as Chapman University and the College of Educational Studies unveiled the Grand Re-Opening for October 27, 2012 for Libreria Martinez de Chapman University (insert link).

Dr. Alma Flor Ada, renowned scholar and prolific children’s author, helped kick off the day by veering away from her PowerPoint presentation into an impassioned speech about how important it is for young people to keep speaking Spanish with their family, so as to not lose the stories.  Without stories, she tells us, young people become pulled away from who they are, from their rich culture and their destiny, into an empty world of overwhelming expectations. You can watch a video of her passionate presentation here.

This was all before 9:30 in the morning!

In spite of the heat, the group of 400 attendees was electrically engaged throughout the day.  There were keynote speakers, panel discussions, and breakout sessions focusing on specific issues and showcasing programs that are helping bridge the gap for young Latinos.  These were led by an impressive group of movers and shakers in the community and in education.

Gustavo Arellano, Editor of OC weekly, Chapman graduate and son of immigrants, spoke to the lunch crowd about the influence his high school teacher had on him – Mrs. Spykerman from Anaheim High School.  He didn’t know it, but Mrs. Spykerman was in the audience!  So great. See his talk here.

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez helped bring the day to a close, talking to a standing-room-only crowd about the power of Latino women.  She introduced Mildred Garcia, president of California State Fullerton, who is also well connected in government education endeavors.  She wowed the crowd with her passion and dedication. Watch Congresswoman Sanchez and Dr. Mildred Garcia together here.

At the end of the day over wine and hors d’oeuvres, the conversation was buzzing with new ideas, renewed passions, and new friendships.  It felt like the end of a good party where no one wanted to go home.