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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 25, 2004

Annual 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 sponsoring the sixth "Strengthening and Valuing Latino/a Communities in Iowa" conference from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30, at the State Historical Building in Des Moines.

In addition, the event includes a pre-conference training institute and a Youth Development Summit designed for high school students on Friday, Oct. 29. The training institute consists of a series of intensive training sessions for professionals and community leaders working with Latino/a communities. It will be held at the John and Mary Pappajohn Education Center, 1200 Grand Ave., from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The youth summit will focus on building leadership opportunities for Latino/a high school students. It will be held at the State Capitol from 8 a.m. to noon.

The conference concludes with a Day of the Dead Celebration on Sunday, Oct. 31, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Des Moines Art Center. Registration is required for the conference and pre-conference activities, but the Day of the Dead celebration is free and open to the public.

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.

"The conference will emphasize culture as a strength that can be used to improve services to the Latino/Latina community," said John-Paul Chaisson-Cardenas, the director of the state Division of Latino Affairs, which co-sponsors the event. "It will also provide networking opportunities for Latino and Latina leaders who live and work in Iowa."

During the Oct. 30 conference program, Yolanda Lopez, a California artist and activist, will deliver the opening keynote as part of the Latino Leadership Awards Brunch from 9 a.m. to noon. The closing keynote, "Our Voice, Our Vision," begins at 4 p.m., presented by Dr. America Bracho, executive director of Latino Health Access, a center for health promotion and disease prevention in Santa Ana, Calif.

In addition, the conference features an Immigration Resource Center, and 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 celebration festivities are dedicated to the rich Latino heritage of the greater Des Moines area and will honor Latino leaders -- Maria "Mary" Ramirez Ortega (1913-1987) and Jesus "Jesse" Mercedes Mosqueda (1921-1989). Each will be honored with an ornate altar in the lobby and a theatrical performance in Levitt Auditorium. Throughout the afternoon, the Mariachi Zapata band from Omaha will perform traditional mariachi music. From 1 to 3:30 p.m. children can make a skeleton mask or comical skeletons participating in everyday activities. There also will be performances and artwork created by students in the elementary Spanish program from the West Des Moines Community School District.

For more information about the conference or pre-conference activities, contact the Iowa Division of Latino Affairs at 515-281-4080. For more information about the Day of the Dead celebration, contact the Des Moines Art Center at 515-277-4405.

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

MEDIA CONTACT: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011, Program: Iowa Division of Latino Affairs, 515-281-4080