LNC, SALSA host 5th annual Hablemos Conference

Matt Poe

Kent State’s Latino Networking Caucus (LNC) and Spanish and Latino Student Association (SALSA) hosted the 5th annual Hablemos “Let’s Talk” Conference on Friday, May 1 with a university alumnus as a guest speaker.

David Garcia, associate vice president for Enrollment Management, was one of the key figures in starting the Hablemos Conference five years ago. He spoke about the purpose of the event and the importance of having alumnus Joey Pompignano speak to his alma mater.

“This conference really brings faculty, staff and students together to talk about issues facing the Latino community,” Garcia said. “For this conference, we asked Joey to share his story so that students can hear about finding your passion, about the value of higher education and being proud of who you are.”  

Pompignano, an author, journalist and poet, graduated from Kent State in 2011. The native of West Cleveland published his first book of poetry, “Defeating Any Given Obstacle,” in 2009. The book chronicles his life experiences as an only child growing up with a single mother and the overall goal to encourage all racial and ethnic groups to educate themselves about their history.

“It’s always nice to come back to KSU, and it’s a blessing that they still feel I’m relevant,” Pompignano said. “It’s great that I can help inspire them to be great students because a lot of us didn’t have people to help guide us along the way, and that was very difficult for me as a first generation college student.”  

Natalia Roman, president of SALSA, said the conference is meant to unify the Latino community and make sure people know what they are accomplishing.  

“We recognize the leadership within our faculty that facilitates the success of Latino students here in Kent and anybody who supports our mission of having more Latino students graduate,” Roman, a sophomore communication studies major said.

Kent State’s official website lists the Hispanic and Latino enrollment at roughly 600 students, compared to almost 27,000 total undergraduate and graduate students. In Ohio, 23 percent of Latino adults (ages 25 and higher) had earned an associate degree or higher, compared to 32 percent of all adults, according to www.edexcelencia.org.   

Roman stressed the importance of the need for more Latino graduates everywhere.

“Our graduation rates are not as high, so this event is to celebrate where we are, where we’re going, and what we have done,” Roman said.

Pompignano teaches throughout the Cleveland and Lorain area and plans to publish his second book of poetry this summer. For more information on Pompignano and SALSA, visit their websites.

Contact Matt Poe at [email protected].