Overcoming gang life is topic of diversity series talk

contact: Jeanne Baron
| WMU News

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A former gang member and student at risk who is now a nationally recognized speaker and educator will visit Western Michigan University Wednesday, Sept. 30.

Photo of Paul Hernandez.


Dr. Paul Hernandez will present a free talk for WMU students and the general public called "Breaking Chains: From Gangs to Graduation" at 5 p.m. in the Bernhard Center Ballroom. Hernandez will share his personal story and discuss hardships faced by students and how to transcend obstacles as well as pursue passions.

Attendees may stay for a roundtable discussion and refreshments. There will be free parking for the event in Parking Structure 1 next to Ellsworth Hall and near the Bernhard Center.

While on campus Sept. 30, Hernandez also will present two workshops for WMU employees. The morning program is for instructors wanting to learn ways to connect with students and prepare for an increasingly diverse student population. The afternoon program is for staff members wanting to build rapport with students while creating relevant as well as life-changing student experiences.

Questions about the Hernandez visit may be directed to WMU's Chris Robinson at christine.robinson@wmich.edu or (269) 387-5087.

About Paul Hernandez

Hernandez was an at-risk student surviving on the streets of Los Angeles and engulfed in gang culture and deep poverty. He ultimately achieved his educational and professional dreams through perseverance and relocating to the Midwest. Hernandez enrolled at Michigan State University and earned a doctoral degree in sociology, specializing in the sociology of education, social inequality and diversity.

Today, he is a nationally recognized speaker and leader in college access and success, community outreach, and pedagogy for educators working with underserved and underprepared students. As a former faculty member, nonprofit administrator and educational consultant, he works with higher education institutions, K-12 schools, and nonprofit organizations to help them further develop and evolve their work with students and communities.

Real Talk Diversity Series

All three of the Hernandez events are on the list of awareness-building programs that are being included in this year's Real Talk Diversity Series. The series, which already is in progress, gives participants a chance to interact and learn about the experiences and perspectives of individuals and groups from many cultural backgrounds.

It is rooted in the concept that many of the problems experienced by culturally different groups and individuals are based on cross-cultural miscommunication and misinformation. The Real Talk Diversity Series serves as a catalyst to promote, celebrate and increase awareness about diversity at WMU, to recognize cultural differences as well as similarities, and to encourage cross-cultural interaction.

Other Real Talk 2015-16 events

  • Wednesday, Sept. 30 and Oct. 7—"Why Comics? Why Mice?," 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Multicultural Center of the Adrian Trimpe Building. These are the final meetings in a three-part discussion series on the visual representation of the Holocaust in Art Spiegelman's graphic novel, "Maus I, " WMU's 2015-16 Universitywide Common Read.
  • Thursday, Sept. 24—"Unraveling the Knot of Race," 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Multicultural Center of the Adrian Trimpe Building. This presentation provides an alternative way of thinking about issues of privilege, based on Dr. Allan Johnson's books, "The Gender Knot" and "Privilege, Power and Difference.
  • Tuesday, Oct. 27—"Food Prisons," 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Multicultural Center of the Adrian Trimpe Building. A musical play about body image, this is an original work by Dr. Christine Iaderosa, coordinator of Theatre for Community Health in WMU's Sindecuse Health Center, with music by Adam Schumaker, instructor of music. It was developed in conjunction with the Southwest Michigan Eating Disorders Association. Some SMEDA representatives will be in attendance.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 10—"Hidden Disabilities: ADHD, Learning Disabilities and the College Experience," 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Multicultural Center of the Adrian Trimpe Building. In this "Hidden Disabilities" session, attendees will gain a better understanding of how ADHD and learning disabilities affect college students. It will include a short film, remarks by current WMU students, and a facilitated question-and-answer period.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 17—"Trans, Gender-nonconforming and Gender-creative Lived Experiences," 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Multicultural Center of the Adrian Trimpe Building. Members of the trans, gender-nonconforming and gender-creative communities will talk about their lived experiences navigating campus and Kalamazoo.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 16—"Hidden Disabilities: Mental Health and the College Experience," 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Multicultural Center of the Adrian Trimpe Building. This "Hidden Disabilities" session examines mental health in the college setting through a facilitated discussion by a panel of current WMU students.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 24—"Identifying Anti-(Fill in the Blank) Narratives in Our Media," 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Multicultural Center of the Adrian Trimpe Building. This is an interactive discussion that will offer insights into how the tools of media literacy can be used for a lifetime of smarter media consumption and production of positive media content.
  • Tuesday, March 8—"Start Smart: Negotiating Your Salary and Closing the Gender Pay Gap," 6 to 8 p.m. in the Multicultural Center of the Adrian Trimpe Building. This is a workshop designed to both inform students as well as faculty and staff members of pay inequities and to provide information about how to overcome some of the barriers to pay equity.
  • Tuesday, April 12—"Stand Up," 6:30 to 8 p.m. of the Multicultural Center of the Adrian Trimpe Building. This is a short play addressing privilege and oppression and how to fight back through bystander intervention. It was developed by members of the University's Theatre for Community Health and shares their stories and ideas based on the question, "What does privilege look like at WMU?"

For more information about the full slate of 2015-16 Real Talk events, visit wmich.edu/diversity/events.

For more news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.