Science + Technology

Sal Castro and Chicano Youth Leadership Conference to Be Honored at First-Ever Symposium


Sincethe 1960s, a conference led by educator Sal Castro transformed the lives ofthousands of Chicano youth and ignited a movement that improved education forLatinos.

LosAngeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, California Supreme Court Associate JusticeCarlos Moreno and filmmaker Moctesuma Esparza are just some of the notables whohave attended the Chicano Youth Leadership Conference (CYLC). Conferenceleaders, most notably Castro, also organized the 1968 East Los Angeles student walkouts that eventually led to significantchanges in the city's educational system and a Chicano civil rights movement.

OnFriday, May 26, UCLA's Chicano Studies Research Center will host the first-eversymposium on Castro and CYLC to inform the general public about the importantrole the conference has played in preparing several generations of Chicana andChicano leaders and improving education for Latinos. The symposium, "Sal Castroand the Chicano Youth Leadership Conference: The Development of ChicanoLeadership Since 1963," also will honor the efforts of Castro and many CYLCvolunteers and students, as well as highlight research on these topics. Theconference will be held from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. in UCLA's Faculty Center.

"The Chicano Youth Leadership Conference,led by Castro's vision and energy, has motivated thousands of Chicana andChicano youth to graduate from high school, attend college and pursue a widerange of professions," said Chon Noriega, the center's director. "With thegrowth of the Latino population and continuing lack of access to highereducation, this program is more important than ever before. It continues tohave a powerful impact on so many lives and in our communities."

CYLCwas started in 1963 in response to the harsh reality that Chicano studentsfared last in education, their dropout rates exceeded any other ethnicity andthe likelihood of their attending a college or university was very low. Theconference brought together high school students at Camp Hess Kramer in Malibuwith the primary objective of encouraging students to graduate from highschool, go to college, graduate and seek advanced degrees to become responsibleleaders.

In1968, Castro, a schoolteacher at LincolnHigh School in East Los Angeles at thetime, led student walkouts in various East Los Angelesschools to protest years of inferior education and demand better treatment.Leaders of the walkouts had attended the CYLC conferences, where they also wereencouraged to take pride in their Chicano culture and become leaders in theirschools.

"Wedon't teach anything in the schools about the contributions Mexican Americanshave made to our nation," said Castro, 72, who provides students with a historyof Mexican Americans since the Revolutionary War. "When the students arrive forthe conference on Friday, they don't want to be there. By the time they leaveon Sunday, they walk out 10 feet tall. They walk out being a born-againMexican."

Accordingto Mario T. Garcia, a University of California, Santa Barbara, history and Chicano studies professor who iswriting a book about Castro and will speak at the May 26 symposium, Castrobegan talking about a possible school walkout at the 1967 conference.

"Asthe youth leadership conference continued into the sixties, the critiques ofthe school mounted with every new cohort of participants as well as Castro'sown growing frustrations at the lack of progress in the schools," Garcia wrote."He also expressed disappointment at the failure of Mexican American politicaland community leaders in challenging the school system or not even addressingthe issues."

Inspring of 1968, thousands of high school students from various East Los Angeles schools walked out in protest. Thirteenleaders of the demonstration, including Castro and Esparza, were arrested.

The1968 walkouts were recently dramatized in the HBO film "Walkout," which wasproduced by none other than Esparza.

Castrois proud the CYLC has finally received the attention it deserves, particularlybecause he hopes it will help secure funding for future conferences. During afew years in the 1980s, no CYLCs were held due to a lack of funding. Sincethen, Castro has worked hard to ensure that won't happen again.

Castroestimates that between 8,000 to 10,000 students have attended the conference.

Thesymposium will feature Castro, scholars who have done related research, CYLCvolunteers and former participants including California Supreme Court AssociateJustice Moreno. Esparza also will speak during a screening of "Walkout."

Moredetails about the symposium can be found at

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