Ex-gangster is keynote speaker at youth conference

Santana

A once tough-talking Latino gangster, now a nationally-recognized gang-prevention advocate, Richard Santana will be the keynote speaker Wednesday at the 21th annual “Attitudes for Success” multicultural youth leadership conference.

The program begins at 8:30 a.m. in the Pendleton Convention Center and concludes about 2 p.m.

Santana is scheduled to speak on “The Winner Within You” at 12:40 p.m. His accounts of his gang life experiences and how they shaped his beliefs, attitudes and self-expectations are inspiring, unsettling and thought-provoking, said Patricia Dawson, Oregon State University Extension 4-H youth program agent.

“He challenges his audience to critically assess their own perceptions and helps them to recognize how these perceptions influence work relationships, effectiveness and productivity,” she said.

Santana’s message is one of making choices between hope and hopelessness, between evaluating young people based on our own standards or accepting them in the context of their own, she said, between giving up on our most challenged youth or truly becoming their advocates.

The founder of Homeboy Goes to Harvard Productions, Santana shares his story as a third-generation gang member who went on earn a master’s degree from Harvard University. He demonstrates to students and educators how he accomplished the change that occurred in his life.

The conference also will include information about preparing for high school, college, military and the workforce and positive personal choices from community leadership to nutrition. 

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