OREM — Greeted by a mariachi band from Ogden High School, hundreds of students from Utah County and around the state gathered at Mountain View High School Friday for the fourth annual Latino Convention.

Juan Hernandez, former adviser to Mexican President Vicente Fox, addressed the group as keynote speaker. Hernandez also spoke at Utah Valley State College on Friday.

At the convention, teens spent the afternoon in workshops, learning everything from testing skills to college preparation.

"The Hispanic students need to believe they have a better future than only graduating from high school," said parent volunteer Erika Phang of American Fork.

Araceli Gomez, 15, a ninth-grader at Canyon View Junior High School in Orem, said getting good grades is a good first step to improving the Latino community as a whole. "Of course, I want to go to college," Gomez said. She said she wants to be able to "work for something that is mine and earn money while I do something I love."

Maria Valenzuela, 15, a ninth-grader at Canyon View, said she is headed to college "so that I can have a good career, so that I can provide for my future family and so that my parents can be proud of me."

At UVSC, Hernandez was hosted by the college's Hispanic/Latino Outreach program.

In welcoming Hernandez, UVSC officials said the college is growing rapidly, especially in its Hispanic population.

However, Hernandez said, while in general 25 percent of the area high school populations are Hispanic, only 5 percent of UVSC's student body is Hispanic. "We need to encourage the Hispanic students who are in high school not to drop out," he said.

Regarding immigration, Hernandez said that, according to polls, 75 percent of the U.S. population would be OK with undocumented persons being legalized if they took five steps:

• Have their papers checked to ensure they don't have a criminal background.

• Don't take jobs from U.S. citizens.

• Pay Social Security and taxes.

• Work on their English skills.

• Pay a fine for breaking the law by being in the country illegally.

Hernandez was born in Fort Worth, Texas. His father is Mexican and his mother is American. He has a doctorate from Texas Christian University.

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