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updated: 9/14/2012 3:56 PM

Latino Heritage Month kicks off at MCC

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Starting next week, McHenry County College will celebrate Latino Heritage Month with an array of cultural events and -- for the second time -- a day specifically aimed at encouraging high school students to go to college.

Latino Heritage Month, which kicks off Monday and runs through Oct. 11, celebrates Latino culture and its traditions and highlights the contributions made by Latinos, officials said.

About 200 high schoolers participated in the first Latino Empowerment Conference last year; this year's turnout on Sept. 21 is expected to reach 300, said Sonia Reising, MCC's coordinator of multicultural programs. Students will hear from guest speakers and attend workshops on topics such scholarships and financial aid, degrees and certificates available, and ways to explore different careers, Reising said.

"We want to let them know that the opportunity is all about them. They have to take responsibility for themselves and take responsibility for doing the research and getting access to the resources," she said.

The conference will include a parade of Latin American flags performed by students from Woodstock North High School.

MCC student Mario Cordoba, of Crystal Lake, was among a group from the MCC student organization Latinos Unidos who helped the Latino Heritage Month committee organize the lineup of events.

"I'm really excited overall about the whole month," Cordoba said, adding he's invited his parents to attend some of the events. "My culture is from Mexico, and family is everything for me. That's what I hope to express to everyone that I meet, that all families are united in this."

About 10 percent of students at McHenry County College are Latino, many of them the first in their families to go to college, Reising said. She added that she was especially happy that the college was able to partner with Raue Center for the Arts to offer discounted student tickets for a performance on Sept. 29.

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