HAMMOND | Clark High School senior Mariela Cortes was moved by a speech by a Colombia native during a one-day conference at Purdue University Calumet, and she believes everyone felt the same way.
Cortes was among about 300 Hispanic students, both girls and boys, from Hammond, East Chicago and Gary who attended the METAS Conference, which stands for Motivate, Educate, Termina, Alcanza y Suena, hosted by Purdue University Calumet Friday.
The morning keynote speaker was Lina Traslavina-Stover, a native of Bogota, Colombia, who came to the United States to earn a degree. She talked about how she came to believe in herself after overcoming depression and an eating disorder.
The afternoon keynote speaker was Robert Renteria, an author, civic leader and Latino humanitarian who focused on his escape from a life of dealing drugs and hanging with gangs to eventually achieve success through hard work, dedication and education.
Cortes said what Traslavina-Stover said about suffering from bulimia and overcoming that through counseling and learning to love herself will be able to help anyone.
"There are a lot of girls who have that," she said. "It helps others to know that no matter what you have, whether it's an eating disorder or something else, you can recover from that and pursue your dreams. I think when students hear that, it will encourage them to get help."
Traslavina-Stover told students she was smart and a nerd in school. She said she helped boys and girls with their homework but wasn't the type who had a boyfriend. At 14, Traslavina-Stover said she thought the answer to her problem was to lose weight. Four years later, she said her father confronted her about it and she was unable to lie about it, leading to her getting the help she needed.
"If I had not admitted to myself that I was the biggest barrier that I had, I wouldn't be here today," she said, with tears in her eyes.
Students had an opportunity to attend workshops promoting college. There also were workshops for parents focusing on college admission, financial aid and preparation.
Clark High School counselor Romelle Walton said she hopes the students are "motivated and encouraged" by the conference to go to college.