The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us


100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0011; fax (319) 384-0024

Release: Oct. 25, 2000

UI conference Nov. 3-4 to focus on Latino affairs in Iowa

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Community leaders, social workers, educators, and others who offer services to Iowa's growing Hispanic population will gather at the University of Iowa Saturday, Nov. 4 for a conference on "Strengthening and Valuing Latino/a Communities in Iowa."

The conference will be from 8:45 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the Iowa Memorial Union and includes workshops on a variety of topics including working with Latino families, health and human services for immigrants, use of translators and interpreters, and educating English language learners.

"The conference will emphasize culture as a strength that can be used to improve services to the Latino community," said John-Paul Chaisson, a conference organizer and staff member in the UI School of Social Work. "In addition, it is designed to help Latino and Latina leaders gain the skills and networks that they need in order to take active leadership roles in their communities."

During the conference, Chaisson who also serves as chair of the Governor's Commission on Latino Affairs, and Sandra Sanchez, executive director of the American Friends Service Committee, will lead a multimedia-interactive activity focusing on immigration. In addition, Kathryn Ellis, principal deputy director of the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will speak about civil rights of immigrants using health and human services. Charles L. Perez, child welfare manager with the Colorado Division of Child Welfare, will speak about changing the system from within.

The conference registration fee is $60 with a reduced rate of $25 for students.

Opportunity at Iowa and the UI Office of Admissions have organized a one-day pre-conference Friday, Nov. 3 at the IMU. Nearly 100 Latino high school students from around the state will meet in Iowa City for a day of workshops, tours, and social activities. Some 28 of the students have received scholarships to participate in Saturday's conference. In addition to conference activities, these students will also be offered a three-hour ACT preparation course. For more information on the youth pre-conference, call Adele Rodriguez at (319) 335-0591.

In conjunction with the conference, the Governor's Commission on Latino Affairs will hold a Latino Awards Banquet to honor Iowa's outstanding Latino leaders. Three Latino Leadership Awards and one Latino Youth Leadership Award will be given at the banquet. Lt. Gov. Sally J. Pederson will give the keynote address at the luncheon ceremony, which is scheduled for 12:15 - 2 p.m. in the Richey Ballroom at the IMU.

The conference culminates with the fourth annual Day of the Dead celebration, organized by a group of volunteers from school districts, social service agencies, and businesses in Iowa City, West Liberty, and Columbus Junction. Day of the Dead is a Mexican tradition rooted in the ancient Aztec belief that death is not an end, but a stage in an endless cycle much like the seasons. Death was not to be dreaded because it was not seen as final. When the Spanish brought Catholicism to Mexico, the two religions combined to create a unique blending of rituals and beliefs including
"Dia de los Muertos," Day of the Dead, which coincides with the Catholic feasts of All Saints and All Souls.

A group of faculty, staff and students in the UI School of Social Work who wanted to help build relationships with Latinos living in and around Iowa City and create a better understanding of Mexican culture among social work students and local residents initiated the Day of the Dead tradition in Iowa City in 1997. This year's celebration will be at Old Brick, 26 E. Market St., beginning at 7 p.m. and will include community art, music, and other entertainment. Tickets are $10. For more information call Bob VanderBeek at (319) 335-1250.

"Strengthening and Valuing Latino/a Communities in Iowa" is sponsored by a number of UI groups including the School of Social Work, the Office of Admissions, Opportunity at Iowa, the College of Education, the Office of Affirmative Action, the Office of Financial Aid, the Women's Resource and Action Center, the Women In Science and Engineering Program, and Sigma Lambda Gamma. Additional sponsors include the Governor's Commission on Latino Affairs, the Iowa Department of Education, the Iowa Department of Public Health, University of Northern Iowa, Cornell College, Kirkwood Community College, National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice, United Action for Youth, American Friends Service Organization, Day of the Dead Committee, and Sabor Latino.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Kate Kemp in advance at 319-335-1254.