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Latino speaker inspires students
By Pat Kumpan September 27, 2006

Carlos Devis delivers his message of hope to students during ‘Conquista Tus Suenos’ seminar at Poway High. Staff photo by Craig Racicot.

It often takes someone who speaks your language to get the message across — reason enough for Latino Carlos Devis to deliver his recent “Realize Your Dreams” workshop completely in Spanish.

Establish your dream and don’t let anyone stop you from reaching your goals, Devis told his audiences last week.

The Sept. 22 session of “Conquista Tus Suenos” was held at Poway High School for middle and high school students, while parents had their segment Sept. 23 at the Poway Boys & Girls Club.

The workshops drew more than 300 students and about 50 parents, said Blanca Fisher, the event’s organizer and a Valley Elementary School mom.

“I had a goal for these kids,” she said. “I never imagined the response would be like this.”

Devis told the students that he immigrated to the United States with his parents from Bogata, Colombia, more than 50 years ago. He was only 6.

He had obstacles, similar to what most immigrants face, he said. Learning English was one of them, but he told his young audience that there are “no excuses” for not succeeding, whether their families are poor or living in low-income neighborhoods.

Devis told a true story about a boy named Ricardo, who dreamed about the house he would one day own: a home with a fireplace and a swimming pool.

While others told the boy that he was foolish to have such a lofty dream, Ricardo could visualize what he wanted and he drew a picture to capture that vision.

“That picture is now framed on his mantle in his dream home,” Devis said. “His dream became a reality, because he believed he could succeed in life.”

Traveling throughout the United States, Devis repeats much of that story to Latino children everywhere. He hopes he’s removing barriers for them, opening doors, he said.

His recent visit to Poway spoke volumes about one major factor in his own success as a motivational speaker, he knows how to connect with fellow Latinos of all ages.

He says his talk simply can be described as “viene del corazon,” or in English, “it comes from the heart.”

And it wasn’t all seriousness. Devis spiced up his presentation with some humorous anecdotes, such as, “I’ve always been a millionaire, I just didn’t have the money.”

But the most revealing part of the seminar were the testimonials from Poway High students, including one boy who stood up to say that he had a job, but decided to leave it and go back to school.

Not everyone in his family backed him immediately, but he made getting his high school diploma a priority, and now he’s getting more support from his family.

For Poway High senior Monica Guerra, there were tears her first week of school because she didn’t think she fit in, and she had lots of classes to make up.

Now the senior, who exuded lots of vibrant personality during her chat with Devis, has caught up with her class load, will graduate this year and has a job at McDonald’s.

“It’s not a grand job or anything like that, but I’m working hard,” she said. “I have a job and I’m graduating.”

Kelly Sanchez, a seventh-grader from Meadowbrook Middle School said she plans on taking Devis’ advice.

“Life would be miserable without an education,” she said.

Her dream is to become an architect and eventually design apartment buildings that look good, but also have reasonable rents for low-income families, she said.

To the surprise of many of the students, Poway High Principal Scott Fisher addressed the group in Spanish during the seminar.

“Maybe Scott doesn’t know it, but he made valuable points with students today,” said Mary Ochoa. “They connected.”

Ochoa works in PUSD and also assists with Latino Bridges, a group that looks at district programs and evaluates if they meet the needs of latino students. And if not, what can be done to improve those programs, she said.
With more and more Latino students coming into PUSD, the service is expected to be in greater demand in the upcoming years, Ochoa added.

She called the recent seminars “confidence building,” a great way for Latino students to set goals and look positively toward their futures.

Several Spanish-speaking volunteers were available during the talks to help non-Spanish speaking attendees with translations.

The city of Poway backed the program with $1,500, while the accounting firm of Cobb, Stees & Company in Rancho Bernardo pitched in $5,000.

Laura Stees of that firm said that her company could see the potential in helping local Latino students.

Her business recently helped underwrite a visit by Devis to San Marcos schools so when she was approached to assist Poway, she was glad to do so, she said.

Poway Unified School District opened Poway High’s gymnasium for the half-day seminar, which included free lunch by Quizno’s, along with other goodies from local merchants.


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