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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 20, 2003

UI Conference Focuses On Latino Communities In Iowa

The University of Iowa School of Social Work, along with a number of local and state organizations, is hosting the fifth "Strengthening and Valuing Latino/a Communities in Iowa" conference Saturday, Nov. 1, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Iowa Memorial Union.

In addition, the conference includes a pre-conference training institute that will be held Friday, Oct. 31, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and a Youth Development Summit on Oct. 31 designed for high school students with special artists and workshops targeted towards youth and organized by Opportunity at Iowa. The conference concludes with a Day of the Dead Celebration beginning at 6:30 p.m., Nov. 1 at Old Brick in Iowa City.

Organizers say the conference is an opportunity to explore the changing demographics and dynamics of the Latino/a community in Iowa and the responsiveness of policy makers, business leaders and community-based organizations to the fastest growing population in Iowa.

According to the 2000 census Iowa's Latino/a population has grown 153 percent in the last decade. However, this new population is still untapped and under-served, says John-Paul Chaisson-Cardenas, director of the state Division of Latino Affairs, which co-sponsors the event.

"The conference will emphasize culture as a strength that can be used to improve services to the Latino/Latina community," he said. "It will also provide networking opportunities for Latino and Latina leaders who live and work in Iowa."

Victor Villasenor, author of fiction and non-fiction works including "Macho!" "Rain of Gold," "Thirteen Senses" and "The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez" will deliver the opening keynote during the Latino Leadership Awards Brunch from 9:30 a.m. to noon. The closing keynote, "The Role of Latina Leadership in Strengthening and Valuing Latina/o Communities in Iowa," begins at 4 p.m. and will feature Rusty Barcelo, vice president for minority affairs at the University of Washington, and Teresa Garcia, a program associate in the UI Graduate College.

In addition, the conference features an all-day Health Fair with basic health screenings, an Immigration Resource Center and 20 workshops (many in Spanish) on topics such as economic development, civil rights, Latino/a identity development, culturally and language appropriate assessment and services, immigration, reaching Latino/a communities, gender issues and education.

The Day of the Dead observance includes a variety of activities including art, music, storytelling and performance. This year the event features traditional Aztec dance, local artists, and Latino musicians. Participants are invited to celebrate the life of one who has departed by bringing a remembrance of them (photo, possession, their favorite food, etc) for the group Ofrenda.

UI sponsors of this event include the School of Social Work and its National Resource Center on Family Centered Practice, College of Community and Behavioral Health, the Center for Disabilities and Development, the College of Education Diversity Committee, the Institute for the Support of Latino Families and Communities, the Office of Admissions, Office of Affirmative Action, Opportunity at Iowa.

Other sponsors include Diocese of Davenport, Hispanic Educational Resources, Inc, Central College/WPC, Iowa State University, University of Northern Iowa, Immigrant Rights Network of Iowa, Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Department of Education, Iowa Workforce Development's New Iowan Centers, Humanities Iowa, Division on Latino Affairs, Hernandez Law Office, Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Employee and Family Resources, Columbus Junction Community Schools, Iowa City Commission on Human Rights, Grantwood Area Education Agency, United Action for Youth, Commission on Latino Affairs, National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), Center for New Community, Proteus, Inc., Iowa Arts Council, Iowa Department of Human Rights, Iowa Civil Liberties Union (ICLU), St. Mary's Catholic Church Ottumwa, Iowa Civil Rights Commission, Iowa City Press Citizen, and Unidad en la Amistad.

More information is available from Kate Kemp, UI School of Social Work, 319-335-1254, or John-Paul Chaisson, 515-281-4080,

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,; Program: Kate Kemp, 319-335-1254, or John-Paul Chaisson, 515-281-4080,