Two weekends ago, Goshen College’s Center for Intercultural and International Education (CIIE) arranged for several staff and students to fly out to Fort Myers, Florida in order to attend the Hope for the Future Conference organized by the Mennonite Education Agency (MEA). The conference lasted from January 23 to 25, and three students affiliated with CIIE were selected to attend: Malcolm Aquinini, sophomore vice-president of the Black Student Union, Dona Park, sophomore representative of the International Student Club, and Samantha Peña, junior representative of the Latino Student Union. Accompanying them were Gilberto Perez, senior director of intercultural development & educational partnerships; DaVonne Kramer, diverse student program coordinator; and Rocio Diaz, multicultural outreach community liason, though other persons affiliated with Goshen College also attended, including college president Jim Brenneman.
The MEA’s online description of the conference called it “a gathering for leaders of color and Mennonite Church USA leaders to work at finding adaptive solutions for culturally appropriate leadership development.” The conference studied power and categorized how it works in different ways. For Aquinini, however, the purpose was “to get people of color in Mennonite institutions together.” The students enjoyed the experience and felt that it had been a worthwhile use of the weekend. Aquinini added, “While it was good to familiarize myself with relationships and power, just being there and seeing that there are . . . people of color in the Mennonite institution doing wonderful things really made me reflect on how I could better myself and my approach to social justice.”