UI Center for Inclusive Academic Excellence displays Iowa youth’s art

The 23rd Latinx Youth Summit hosted workshops from University of Iowa students, an address from keynote speaker Dr. Denise Martinez, as well as an inaugural art competition. The winner of the competition will have their art displayed in the Center for Inclusive Academic Excellence.

Archie Wagner, News Reporter

The University of Iowa Latinx Youth Summit on Sept. 23 promoted the theme of “Bienestar, Salud, y Sabiduria: Supporting Youth Wellbeing with a new competition that encourages students to respond to the prompt with a piece of artwork.

This year’s winner is an art piece from Ariana at Griswold High School. The piece is titled “Symbol of Friendship,” which is a rendition of the Statue of Liberty.

The painting was shipped out to the UI and will be displayed in the Center for Inclusive Academic Excellence for the remainder of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Griswold High School could not attend the summit, Alma Bernal said, an academic coach for the UI Center for Inclusive Academic Excellence, but the student still reflected on the piece’s meaning.

“When she was asked about the artwork, she said Lady Liberty represents friendship,” Bernal said. “Friendship is very important to our well-being. When you have friends, you have a sense of community, safety, and home.”

Bernal attended the Latinx Youth Summit when she was in high school, but now she is part of the committee that plans the event.

“I just started my position here at the university in January,” Bernal said. “This is my first year planning the Latinx Youth Summit … It’s kind of become like a full circle moment for me.”

Bernal said an important takeaway from the summit is representation. Representation comes from the students attending, the volunteers at the college level, and from the subjects of panels like “How to Manage Your Wellbeing in College as a Latinx Student.”

“The biggest thing I took away was being surrounded by people who look like me,” Bernal said. “[People] who were in positions in an academic way or were education advocates or in different positions that I stereotypically wouldn’t see.”

Denise Martinez, associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Carver College of Medicine, was the keynote speaker at this year’s event and expanded on representation and wellness.

“When I was in their shoes, I was discouraged from pursuing what I wanted to pursue — being a physician — because I was told that I didn’t have what it takes,” Martinez said.

Martinez said she made sure to emphasize that children have what it takes to succeed. Finding mentors, support, and opportunities to take care of themselves is part of that success.

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“What I think is really important is helping the students find their voice and recognize what they have to contribute to society,” Martinez said.

The event hosted workshops by current UI students, including one co-hosted by third-year student Erin Elizalde, who focused on the intersections of culture and self-love.

“A lot of the focus was about how culture influences your idea of yourself and how culture is a beautiful thing that you can use to figure out ways to appreciate and love yourself,” Elizalde said.

Elizalde is also a student assistant at the Center for Inclusive Academic Excellence and a peer leader for Iowa Edge.

Some of the questions used in the summit workshop were meant to spark the students’ self-reflection, she said.

The Latinx Youth Summit was canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19 but has seen greater participation in the last two years, Bernal said. Last year’s summit had 150 in attendance, and the expected total at the Latinx Youth Summit 2022 was 216 including chaperones.

“We actually cut it close this year, in regard to catering and the T-shirt order and the swag order,” Bernal said. “We’re like, ‘Oh my god,’ because two weeks ago, we didn’t have anyone registered.”

The art competition is a new addition to the summit’s activities lineup. In previous years, poster contests and history competitions held its place.

“There hasn’t been a lot of interest in [the history competition] in the last couple of years,” Bernal said. “So, I said, ‘Let’s get rid of this, and maybe let’s try an art contest and see if that’s something,’ because it gives them a little more control and a little bit more let me interpret it my way.”