Portland Community College hosts fifth Ethnic Studies Youth Conference

Story by James Hill. Photos by Ric Getter.

On Friday, Dec. 8, the Critical Educators of Color Pathway (CECP) at Portland Community College’s Southeast Campus hosted its 5th Ethnic Studies Youth Conference, drawing over 400 students from middle and high schools across the state. This conference provided a platform for middle and high school students to showcase art, testimonies, and research addressing critical contemporary issues.

The conference covered a range of topics, including environmental justice, healthcare, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, immigrant and refugee rights, education, art, youth rights, state violence, economic equity, and white supremacy. The event aimed to bridge communication between age groups, institutions, and geographies, fostering connections among diverse communities.

“This has grown to be a highly anticipated event for youth and educators alike throughout Oregon,” said Gabriel Higuera, ethnic studies instructor and conference organizer. “The convergence of youth voice, ethnic studies, and community resources brings out a critical hope that is both healing and transformative. Our work continues to be better stewards of this movement.”

Gabriel Higuera speaking

Gabriel Higuera, Humanities instructor, helped organize the conference.

The CECP, an initiative challenging the systemic exclusion of educators of color, offers courses and community work through the college. Grounded in ethnic studies, the program seeks to prepare critical educators who question and challenge oppressive systems disproportionately affecting Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other marginalized communities.

Oregon faces a significant underrepresentation of teachers of color, a legacy of historical practices that marginalized Indigenous, Black, and Latinx communities. The CECP addresses this gap by providing a supportive environment for students interested in the teaching profession, emphasizing community engagement and fostering a cohort model that builds group support.

The conference also highlighted positive developments in Oregon’s education system. In 2017, the state passed legislation mandating the teaching of ethnic studies in public schools and requiring the development of curricula related to Native American history and culture. Additionally, Senate Bill 182 aims to remove economic barriers to teaching certification, promoting diversity in the teaching profession.

The CECP’s commitment to justice and humanizing education aligns with these legislative efforts, reflecting a collective push towards a more inclusive and equitable K-20 schooling experience.

For more information, visit: https://www.criticaleducators.org/