Pathways to Success: 2019 Multicultural Youth Leadership Summit

Over 1,000 students from 30 different schools arrived to Salt Lake Community College on Monday, October 7th, spreading a feeling of excitement marked by their potential. Instead of taking the bus to school, they took it to one of Utah’s most diverse colleges with 31 percent of the student body being racially diverse and 56 percent being the first in their family to attend college (Factbook, SLCC). Salt Lake Community College leads the state in affordable higher education and they pride themselves in helping students not only envision success, but plan on it. 

This high impact day started with Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera, who opened the general session of the Summit by sharing  her story of triumph over opposition. As a child, she had always wanted to join the police force and she did at the age of 31 after overcoming the trials of being a “teenage mom and high school dropout, who lived on public assistance, but didn’t let the stacked-against-her odds keep her from fulfilling her dreams” (Salt Lake Tribune). 

Lt. Governor Spencer J. Cox, a longtime supporter of the event and a mental health advocate, encouraged youth to share their stories and be more aware of each other. Students enjoyed hearing these lived experiences and expressed affirmations like  “I can look forward to my future” and “I enjoyed learning about everyone’s past and where they came from and how they came to be.” 

Students participating in the art installation.

In addition to these inspirational messages, the day promoted college and career readiness and personal growth through breakout sessions on financial literacy, emotional wellbeing, community engagement, and networking for future success. To encourage creative expression, Tracy Williams, a local Pacific-Islander artist, organized an art installation to help students become more emotionally aware. 

Mary Oling, Salt Lake Community College student and juvenile justice advocate, being recognized by Governor Gary R. Herbert.

The day concluded with an address from Governor Gary R. Herbert, introduced by President Deneece Huftalin of Salt Lake Community College. Governor Herbert highlighted the resilience and strength of Mary Oling,  a Salt Lake Community College student who was honored as an emerging leader the day after the Summit at the “Learn Their Truth: Elevating Youth Voice in Utah’s Justice System” event.  At the age of 17, she adopted her siblings after losing her parents and changed the trajectory of her life by pursuing her education. Overall, the students were encouraged to look inward and outward for opportunities to lift their communities and discover their strengths.


“I love that students got to be around others who have similar backgrounds and see role models. They get to see themselves as leaders!“

Sandy Caceres, Diamond Fork Jr. High, School Counselor

Young scholars were presented with relatable stories and opportunities to see a broad scope of success that affirmed that representation matters. When asked what their favorite part about the Summit was, Sandy Caceres, school counselor at Diamond Fork Jr. High, said, “I love that students got to be around others who have similar backgrounds and see role models. They get to see themselves as leaders!“

For more coverage and resources regarding the event, visit: 

2019 Multicultural Youth Leadership Summit Recordings (Utah Education Network) 

Summit encourages Utah junior high students to attend college, become leaders (Deseret News)

Students at leadership summit encouraged ‘to be more than what they think they can be’ (ABC4 News)