Local Chicana represents Truckee at conference | SierraSun.com

Local Chicana represents Truckee at conference

Renee Shadforth

Colin FisherAndrea Valdez attended the Chicano/Latino Youth Leadership Conference in Sacramento last week.

When Andrea Valdez was younger, she would go with her mom to the doctor to translate the doctor’s medical advice from English to Spanish.

Valdez, now 17, sat on the floor of the California State Assembly last week in a mock voting session, faced with the decision of whether to pass a recent bill that might prohibit bilingual juveniles from translating medical advice.

“I used to translate for my parents, and I don’t remember that it was a problem,” Valdez said.

Valdez was in Sacramento for the Chicano/Latino Youth Leadership Conference and was one of 140 students chosen from all over California – and the only student from Truckee – to represent Chicano and Latino youth leaders at the conference.

The students listened to various speakers on college, financial planning and life as a Chicano and Latino.

The conference gave Valdez a new outlook on her future.

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“Before (the conference) I knew college was an option. I would have gone if I had the chance,” said Valdez, a Tahoe Truckee High School junior. “Now I know I want to go to college.”

A lot of students at the conference will not have the option to go to college “because they don’t have their papers,” Valdez said.

Many of the speakers talked in English and Spanish (or Spanglish). It helped Valdez relate to what they said.

“Most of [the speakers] were the first generation to go to college. I connected with them. I look at them and I think I can be whatever I want to be,” she said.

Valdez was chosen to attend the conference based on her grass roots work in the Truckee community. Last school year, she worked with the Bilingual Intern Project at Christine’s House Preschool through her high school’s work experience program. She has translated for Project M.A.N.A. at community meetings. She’s active in various community outreach events through her high school.

While many of the students at the conference were involved in associated student body and other student leader positions, Valdez wants to continue working from within the community.

“When I first heard about [the conference], I just wanted to get out of Truckee,” Valdez said. “Now I’m glad I went. I want to try and get out into the community more.”

The conference wasn’t all business. The students also had a dance in front of the capitol building.

“It was funny; we were out there listening to hip-hop and Mexican music. I never imagined that I would be partying in front of the state capitol,” she said.

It was an experience Valdez said she will never forget. She made friends and gained knowledge she will bring back to the Truckee community.

So, how did Valdez vote on the assembly bill?

“I voted for it. It was a tough decision. It was a really tough decision.”