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CSU Pueblo Supports Empowerment of Local Youth Through Community-based Conference

Release Date: October 25, 2023

Gena Alfonso

Director of Communications/PIO

Marketing, Communications, Community Relations

(719) 671-0929

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Pueblo— The community-driven Rita J. Martinez Youth Leadership Conference returns to Colorado State University Pueblo on Thursday, Oct. 19. The second annual conference welcomes over 350 high school students from Pueblo, the San Luis Valley, and Fountain to campus. In keeping with the theme of lasting community impact, the Rita J. Martinez Youth Leadership Conference features keynote speakers Daniel Valdez and Dr. Velia Rincon. The conference is sponsored by CSU Pueblo, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Pueblo County, Servicios de la Raza, and El Movimiento Sigue (The Movement Continues) to bring culturally enriching and educational sessions to students with topics ranging from lowrider culture to banned books and Chicano graffiti to knowing your rights.

“The focus of the conference is to empower local youth to embrace their culture as a strength, not as a deficit,” Assistant Director of College Assistance Migrant Program and Inclusive Excellence Dr. Victoria Obregon said. She also serves as the acting president of the grassroots nonprofit, El Movimiento Sigue, where she works to ensure the legacy of its founder and conference namesake lives on.

Rita J. Martinez was a leading voice in community organizing for over four decades. Along with efforts to organize Pueblo’s Cinco de Mayo commemoration and Abolish Columbus Day efforts, Martinez recognized a service gap for local youth and initiated the planning for the conference in 2019. When she passed away in 2020, her vision for the conference and empowering youth became a lasting part of her impact on the community.

Daniel Valdez is a multi-talented composer, musician, singer, and actor who has championed farmworkers’ rights alongside prominent leaders like Cesar Chavez. He co-wrote original music for and was featured in the production of Zoot Suit in 1981, and was an associate producer of La Bamba, a biopic depicting the life and music of Ritchie Valens.

Dr. Velia Rincon is a Chicana leader within the Pueblo community. Dr. Rincon earned a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, received a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Phoenix. Currently, Dr. Rincon serves as the managing director of leadership development for Pueblo’s Teach for America. She serves on several community boards including the Wisdom Circle for El Movimiento Sigue and has taught Chicano Studies at Pueblo Community College for over 10 years.

In its inaugural year, the Rita J. Martinez Youth Leadership Conference hosted approximately 300 students and was supported by over 70 community volunteers. This year, the conference plans to empower similar numbers of high school students by bridging the gaps between culture, community, and education.

The Rita J. Martinez Youth Leadership Conference begins registration at 7:45 a.m. at the Occhiato Student Center. For more information please contact Dr. Victoria Obregon at

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