HEOP Students Attend Inclusive Leadership Conference

February 03, 2020
  • HEOP International Leadership Conference
  • HEOP International Leadership Conference
To kickstart the spring semester, Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) Director Harmony Cross accompanied MMC HEOP students to Temple University in Philadelphia for the Annual Inclusive Leadership Conference on Saturday, February 1.

The day-long conference is designed to give college students the opportunity to enhance their leadership skills through presentations, workshops, dialogues, and panel discussions on topics related to inclusive leadership and social change.

This year, the theme of the Inclusive Leadership Conference was “Raise Your Voice… It Matters” in an effort to highlight the importance of empowering historically marginalized individuals and communities to create change. The word “voice” was used in the conference as a mechanism: being vocal through your expression, voting, etc. Conference participants were also treated to remarks by keynote speaker Andre Davis, a public speaker, poet, and documentarian. Davis spoke on the importance of using one’s voice to advocate and on the topic of belonging.

Below are testimonies from some of the students who attended the conference:

“I’m very pleased that I was a part of the Inclusive Leadership Conference. I was able to learn different perspectives by participating in the various sessions. The different topics allowed me to keep an open mind and learn that although we might be different on the outside, many of us share similar hardships and aspirations. It was interesting learning from other students but also getting to hear from professionals. Hearing the stories of the professionals who were once in our shoes inspired me to want to use my voice more.”
-Stephanie Galvez ’23


“I am very grateful to have been a part of this conference and to learn how to use my own voice (not only for myself, but for others who cannot speak up), the importance of being non-judgmental to anyone’s identity, and the importance of creating space for others. I really enjoyed the part when Mr. Davis, one of the keynote speakers, said, ‘Your friend is your positive voice in your head.’ Once he said that, I looked around my table and was incredibly thankful for the members of the HEOP community. We have grown together since our summer program and encouraged each other to overcome any hardship we face. Before HEOP, I did not feel a strong connection with friends, but now that I am a member of HEOP, I have that and so much more. I have friends that motivate me, make me laugh, and cry with me. I am incredibly thankful.”
-Aisatou Ishimori ’23


 “I was very grateful for the opportunity to acquire a new set of professional skills. The new skills I acquired polished and nurtured my serious and professional attributes. I also grew stronger as a person of color, as I related to other people of color and recognized myself within others. The sessions during this trip were educational. I would love to go on more trips like this.”
- Cesar Pinos ’23


“I got the opportunity to be involved in a leadership conference that teaches students to believe that their voices matter. One of the activities I attended was about globalization in Africa, which really stood out to me. Students from Temple University gave the audience an index card with a word such as black, colored, white, or Indian. The words that were given to us were our “identities” in 1900 when the continent of Africa was colonized by Europeans. These cards helped us reflect on “identity” as we would have to answer questions given to us based on the label on the card. I enjoyed this because we gave each other our opinions on how we would have done things differently if we were in similar situations of colonization. Just hearing other people’s opinions was helpful because it was a brief history lesson for the ones who were not aware of what occurred during this time. It was impressive to witness people take pride in their history, which has inspired me to be comfortable in my own skin! 

It was worth waking up at 5AM on a Saturday morning to attend this conference. I am incredibly thankful for the HEOP program as this conference was truly eye opening, and I hope to attend more events such as this one. The conference truly helped me understand myself, my history, and where I come from. The ILC also allowed me to connect with other young people that might have had similar experiences or faced similar situations that I had. It takes a lot of courage to have someone that believes in people from different social classes and different cultures. Thanks for giving us opportunity and believing in our success.”
Lisbeth Green ’23


“Being a part of the Inclusive Leadership Conference was a memorable experience for me! Throughout the last activity session, I was given the opportunity to express a situation that I experienced as a Latina woman. It felt great to be in an environment where you were able to talk about something that bothered you and not be judged. It was inspiring to hear other people’s stories who I never met before but who had gone through similar situations as me.”
-Fatima Reyes ’23


“Today was a really nice experience. At first being in a new area with a bunch of people I did not know made me a little nervous, but I felt better towards the end. I enjoyed learning how to approach situations that may be uncomfortable or negative in the outside world. Along with this, I learned how to support others who may be in different situations than me. It was also nice to get advice that would be helpful and allow me to think positively, since I am a person who lets negativity take control. I was also able to find ways to provide positive support to others as much as I can. Also hearing the stories of other students and how they overcame situations that had left them defeated was very nice too.”
-Yasmine Johnson ’23


“Today was the day I broke out of my shell because I am usually quiet. One of the sessions was about being positive in a negative situation. The question asked was, if you treat your friend with kindness why shouldn’t you do the same for yourself? I am always the one helping my friends with their problems and being supportive and forgiving. While I am like that with my friends, it made me ask why I am not like that with myself. I work very hard on myself and never appreciate what I do. This was eye opening for me and I needed to hear this because I usually care about others but not myself. Having the opportunity to talk about my feelings and seeing how others feel made me realize I am not alone.”
-Rosaelena Torres ’23


“Going to Temple today and attending the sessions was a real eye opener for me because I learned that people’s stories are similar to mine. In the last session, titled “Women of Color,” I was given advice on how to handle certain situations and I was reminded that I should be proud of my background and myself. Women who attended the session were older than me and listening to their stories and struggles they face in the workplace and in society in general made me realize that there is so much that has to be done.”
-Yessica Guzman ’23


“I’m really thankful that I attended the Inclusive Leadership Conference at Temple University. I am grateful to have had the chance to hear other people’s experiences and how they overcome each obstacle they face. One thing that stuck with me was when the keynote speaker was talking about having a voice. I feel like this was important to discuss among people of color because it is imperative to know that if we do not speak up, we will not be heard. Just like Andre Davis stated in his speech, ‘When you walk into a room, be a part of that room, don’t create your own room within that room.’”
-Junior Tucker ’23


“The highlight of today’s Inclusive Leadership Conference was being able to listen to other people’s perspectives on topics such as race, sex, disability, and intersectional issues, etc. We were in a safe space and our sessions were so interactive, I gained a lot of knowledge in regards to people’s experiences of their identities. I find events like this very important, especially as a psychology student who aspires to become a mental health counselor in the future, because they help highlight topics that aren’t always outright taught in educational settings. Thank you for this amazing opportunity and I hope that future HEOP students can also have the privilege of attending similar events.”
-Catherine Shimabuku ’20


“Today at the inclusive leadership conference, I was inspired by many people. One person was Andre Davis. He spoke about belonging and how to use our voice. As someone who is shy and doesn’t speak up much, it made me think a lot about how I shouldn’t be afraid and that I should practice using my voice.”
- Ashley Alberto ’23


“Today was a very cool experience. I honestly did not know what to expect! One of the workshops that I attended left me with the chills! It was called “undocumented limbo.” The person who led the session was a Honduran DACA student who immigrated at the age of six.  While the facilitator spoke about his experience as a DACA student, one of the other attendees left the room very rudely. Although this person may have had a legitimate reason for leaving, this act reminded me of the disregard and disrespect that America has for immigrants. I left this conference eager to make change and to advocate for marginalized communities, who are often ignored.
-Melanie Bermudez’ 23