Mount Tabor High School junior Kevin Moran, 14, wants to be a pediatrician someday and, through his participation in the Latino Achievers club at his school, he met a nurse from Wake Forest Baptist Health last year.
Latino Achievers brings professional Latinos or those with connections to the Latino community to the school to share information about their careers, as well as other resources that will help the students graduate from high school and continue to college.
"They explain to us how they got into the career, how they can help us get into a career," Moran said. "It motivates you."
This is the fourth year that Mount Tabor has invited professionals to speak to Latino students. The effort began because a school guidance counselor and social worker were concerned.
"They didn't know what was next for them," said Corey Daniel, a school counselor at Mount Tabor.
Daniel realized that Latino students did not know about the opportunities available to them after high school, so she contacted the Newcomer Center for speaker suggestions.
She invited Nury Anton, who is from Venezuela, and remembers Anton telling the students that with their two languages, "You have gold in your hands."
For two years, school counselors coordinated speakers.
Two summers ago, Daniel contacted the Winston Lake YMCA, which already had a Black Achievers program. The YMCA offered to operate the Latino Achievers program, which is funded by the United Way. Students also get a membership to the Y.
"The kids love it," Daniel said. They feel that "someone cares about them and wants to invest in their future. We need them to care about their community, and we need their community to care about them."
The program has three primary roles, said Anton, who was hired by the YMCA as the director of Latino Achievers: "It teaches them the importance of school; it teaches them to be proud of their heritage and language; it teaches them the different opportunities they can have.
"I was taking ESL (English as a second language) when I was 15 in Florida. I was where they are. When I was in ESL, I did not want to be different. I think there's a huge need to help the Latino students. The need is there because the kids are dropping out."
In 2011-12, 800 Latino high school students participated in the program. This year, the program will be in six high schools: West Forsyth, East Forsyth, North Forsyth, Mount Tabor, Reynolds and Parkland.
Anton is also expanding the program into two middle schools, East Middle and Wiley. She coordinates field trips as well as speakers.
Guest speaker Selma Ahnert told the students that when she arrived in the U.S. from Mexico eight years ago, she knew she wanted to be a court interpreter, so she started sitting in court to learn the terminology.
"I love my job; that's most important," said Ahnert, who is a staff court interpreter for Forsyth County.
Although Stephen Whittington, director of the Museum of Anthropology at Wake Forest University, is not Latino, Anton invited him to explain his archaeological work in Latin American countries.
"Since I've been here in Winston-Salem, I've done what I can to work with the Hispanic community," Whittington said. "If I can help high school students who might consider the museum profession or anthropology or archaeology, that's a good way to spend my time."