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Airport officials host Clayton Latino students

By Maria Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

Manuel de Barros, protocol officer for intergovernmental affairs at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, had some advice for more than 25 Latino students from North Clayton High School during a recent Latin heritage event. "El que no coge consejo, no llega lejo," he told them.

According to de Barros, the Puerto Rican phrase translates to, "The one who doesn't take advice, doesn't get far."

Hartsfield-Jackson is hosting its fifth annual Latino Heritage Month event, Sept. 18 to Oct. 16. The theme for this year's event is "Emerging Global Leadership."

Airport officials recently gave the group of North Clayton High School students a chance to fly a Delta Air Lines airplane simulator while touring the Delta Flight Training Center, said Fernando Chavez, an 18-year-old senior at North Clayton.

"When you [went] up, it felt like you were going up," said Chavez.

Following the tour, students attended a luncheon at the Gateway Conference Room, located on the fourth floor of the airport atrium. During the luncheon, officials from American Airlines, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, City of Atlanta Fire Rescue, the Department of Aviation and the Transportation Security Administration, talked to the students about what it will take to reach their goals.

"Don't ever be afraid to speak what is on your mind," said Juan Carlos Liscano, general manager for American Airlines at Hartsfield-Jackson. "It's because of this value that got me where I am today."

Liscano said he immigrated to the United States when he was 7 years old, and became the translator for his family when he mastered the English language.

"Integrity will become the backbone of your success," Liscano told the roomful of students. "It will bring you success, and it will bring you positive energy."

Liscano said he started his career at American Airlines earning approximately $5 per hour, and that his drive and determination pushed him to succeed.

"I was willing to pick up hours, I was willing to work extra," said Liscano. "It doesn't matter if you're poor, if you're an immigrant, if your parents are divorced ... you are the captains of your soul."

Danielle Yancy said she is the youngest employee in her current position as a manager for the Transportation Security Administration. She oversees the main security checkpoint area in Atlanta's airport.

Yancy told students that in order to reach their goals, they need to ignore negativity and stay focused on the future.

"Remember, excuses are the tools for being incompetent," said Yancy.

Claudia Eden, aviation desktop support technician for the Department of Aviation, said she is the only Latino within her division. She said she was born in Honduras, and her family immigrated to the United States when she was 14 years old.

During her remarks, Eden cited Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, as an example for the Latino students of North Clayton. Eden noted that Sotomayor set a goal of becoming a lawyer at an early age.

"To me, that showed me that it's never too early to start planning," said Eden. "Don't let anyone, or anything discourage you."

Atlanta Fire Rescue Capt. Rick Clemons emphasized the importance of a college education during his presentation.

"Education is so, so important, because education opens doors for you," said Clemons. "That's going to take you far in life."

Frank Rodriguez, senior facility manager for planning and development at Hartsfield-Jackson, explained the importance of speaking a second language, in the aviation industry.

"Being Latino, and knowing two languages makes a big difference," said Rodriguez. "Language is a very important thing, especially in the airport."

To participate in Hartsfield-Jackson's fifth annual Latino Heritage Month event, North Clayton High School Latino students were required to enter an essay contest, airport officials said. This year, students had to write an essay with a theme based on Sotomayor's appointment to the Supreme Court. The essay winner for North Clayton was senior, Fernando Chavez. His essay was about how Sotomayor's nomination impacted him in a positive way, and how it inspired him to reach his goals.

"I knew that if I tried hard, I could do it, but now that I see somebody doing it, you look up to that person," said Chavez.

North Clayton High School students have participated in Hartsfield-Jackson events since 2001, through the Partners in Education program, said Judy Nickel, work-based learning coordinator for North Clayton High School.

Hartsfield-Jackson's Latino Heritage Month event will give Latino students from two other high schools a chance to learn from various speakers, and view different sites at the airport.

Students from Tri-Cities High School will attend the event this week, and will tour the Delta Air Transport Heritage Museum, said DeAllous Smith, media relations officer for Hartsfield-Jackson. South Atlanta High School will participate on Oct. 16, and will explore the Atlantic Southeast Airlines hangar.

The winners of the essay contests at each school will have a chance at the grand prize, which will include two AirTran Airways round-trip tickets to a destination of their choice, said Tracy Gilbert, special programs manager for Hartsfield-Jackson.

"The grand-prize winner will be announced at the conclusion of the Latino Heritage Month program," said Gilbert.