Maria Chavez and two of her Patterson High School classmates went to the Hispanic Education Conference on Saturday in Modesto to learn that the path to college and the career opportunities that follow are accessible.
"It doesn't matter who you are or where you live, you can do it," said Chavez, a 16-year-old sophomore.
About 500 students attended the 24th annual conference, which was hosted by Modesto Junior College.
The event provides local high school students with information on a variety of careers and encourages them to choose a career, focus on a goal and consider attending MJC.
Claudia Ramirez, conference committee chairwoman, said the event was open to anyone, regardless of ethnicity.
"It's great to be exposing them to different avenues that are available," Ramirez said. "They need that motivation."
The event featured 34 workshops on a variety of topics, including careers in law enforcement, agriculture, technology and politics, along with sessions to help students prepare for college life.
Parents had their own workshop on educational and financial aid opportunities for their children.
Maria Hernandez, 16, said she wants a career in nursing and learned Saturday that her goal can be achieved by focusing and working hard.
"It helped me out to ask all the questions about what I want to be," said Hernandez, a Patterson High School sophomore. "It's not that hard if I really want to come (to college)."
Virginia Madueño was the keynote speaker at the event. She is president of Imagen LLC, a public relations and marketing firm, and vice mayor of Riverbank.
Mauricio Rivera, 18, of Modesto walked away from the event remembering words of support and several lessons.
The Downey High School senior wants to go to college and become a graphic designer. Rivera said he learned from Madueño's speech to ignore naysayers.
"The way she struggled, that nobody believed her when she said she was going to college," said Rivera. "I can do the same. Make something out of myself."
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2394.