Paying It Forward
When Samanta De La Rosa was making her college decision, the University of Oklahoma was on her radar, but attending OU initially seemed like an impossibility. However, that perspective changed once she participated in the Tomás Rivera Educational Empowerment (TREE) Conference and began to picture herself at the university thanks to the knowledge she gained and the members of the OU community she met.
The TREE Conference, hosted by the Omega Delta Phi fraternity, is the largest Latino high school educational empowerment conference in the state of Oklahoma. The goal of the conference is to inform Latino high school seniors of the numerous resources available to them as they prepare for the next step in life.
“It’s just making sure that these students are aware that there are possibilities and opportunities for them to gain a higher education, even if the odds are against them,” shared De La Rosa, a first-generation college student. “They get here and they feel the warmth of the family, not just students but also faculty and staff, who are telling them, ‘We want you here and we think you can make it.’ Students leave with that mindset, and it motivates them.”
More than 350 students attended this year’s event on Nov. 16 for a day that featured seminars for both students and high school counselors covering topics like financial aid and scholarships, a career fair, and many other resources that focus on education empowerment. Additionally, 21 scholarships totaling $25,000 were awarded at the conference and can be redeemed at any university, not just OU.
Now an OU senior, De La Rosa, like many other students who attended TREE Conference, volunteers each year because of the positive impact the event had on her. Alumni and current students also often share keynote addresses at the conference or give scholarships, like De La Rosa’s sorority, Kappa Delta Chi sorority, which gave a scholarship for the second straight year in 2018.
“Even when I have a tough semester and there’s so much going on and I’m overwhelmed, just going to this conference and seeing the impact that it makes on all of these students is super motivating for me,” explained De La Rosa, who attended Astec Charter High School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
“They get here and they feel the warmth of the family, not just students but also faculty and staff, who are telling them, ‘We want you here and we think you can make it.’ Students leave with that mindset, and it motivates them,” said Samanta De La Rosa, OU psychology senior and TREE Conference volunteer.
De La Rosa, who is majoring in psychology with minors in Spanish and women’s and gender studies, is currently looking into working for a nonprofit following graduation. She said she has always wanted a career where she can give back, which influences her involvement on campus not just at TREE Conference but through other avenues like Latinos Without Borders and being an intern for OU’s Diversity Enrichment Programs.
“I want to show others what their worth is and the opportunities that they can have,” De La Rosa said. “I want to make sure high schoolers are aware that there’s a place for them and they can make it, even if they themselves at this point don’t think that they’re worth it.”