by Shelley Handley
Early in the morning on Friday, March, 4, large group of Glendale Community College students, mostly male, from GCC M.E.N.’s chapter commuted together in a few vehicles across the valley to attend a district wide conference. Chandler-Gilbert Community College hosted the 2016 Male Empowerment Network Conference. Over 200 students, staff, faculty, administrators and professional leaders attended this 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. event. All 21 tables were full.
The traffic was daunting, but they arrived early enough to choose two tables at the front of the room, so that they could have premium seating to hear returning motivational Latino-American keynote speaker, Ernesto Majia, CoolSpeak, present. Majia, a son of Mexican immigrants, learned early in childhood the impact of racism and prejudice. Thus, he utilized personal anecdotal stories and stress relieving humor to talk candidly about the struggles of living in two cultures.
“Be smart about how you network…investigate others and know key terms that they would relate to for effective communication…and present yourself professionally in dress and speech, for that will make a bigger a difference than where you born and what race you are,” Majia said.
Majia focused on essential strategies that help minority males achieve their dreams professionally and personally. Majia narrowed topics to include making a first impression count, paying attention to relevant information, networking effectively, understanding financial literacy, and persevering with good decision making.
From College to Career was the theme that flowed into the other two presenters David Martinez, former MasterChef turned educator and administrator, Travis Hardin, communications consultant and vice president for Wells Fargo, and the four breakout sessions: Digital Citizenship; Dress for Success; Discovering your Career Path; and How to use LinkedIn to Land a Job. Carlos Ruiz, GCC freshman majoring in bio-technology, said he appreciated Detroit raised Hardin’s advice. “He kept it real,” Ruiz said. “There are certain people who don’t belong on your social media sites due to the image that they convey about you, and that can cost you a good job.” Jesus Saldana Jr., president of GCC’s Associated Student Government, is not a novice to the M.E.N.’s program. This is his second year. “It’s great to see that everyone is improving. I remember my first year, I was kind of the quiet one, so it is good to see everyone stepping out of their comfort zone, especially when it comes to speaking with people you don’t know.” Saldana Jr. said.
Saldana Jr. is majoring in secondary education. He wants to teach math and eventually Chicano studies at a community college. Saldana Jr. became involved in the M.E.N.’s program out of need. “I was going every day to class, and, maybe, I don’t know anyone, but being in M.E.N. is kind of like put me in the ground, leaving me level-headed, so I know this is what I need to get done, and if I ever need help, I can rely on someone,” he said. Saldana Jr. enjoys being the leader now. He had help his first year from others who knew what needed to be done and how to do it. “I remember my first year. I was so lost, and I didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing. I made friends where they’ve been where I’ve been, and they were able to lend their hand to tell me what I needed to do and how I can do it,” Saldana Jr. said. “So then, now, I am the one who is teaching them, and, it’s great to see that I am still giving back to those who need it.”