Latin Americans from the Holland area will speak on the challenges and successes they experienced in their school and work experiences on Thursday, March 9, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Harbor Lights Middle School library as part of the series "Becoming A Culturally-Responsive Educational Community."

The series is sponsored by Hope College's CrossRoads Project, West Ottawa Schools, and the National Educational Diversity Program of the Japanese American National Museum, which is funded by Toyota. Harbor Lights is located at 1024 N. 136th Ave.

The public is invited. Admission is free.

Panelists Andres Fierro, Victor M. Perez and Gerardo Ruffino will share their experiences and ideas on how educational communities can become more culturally responsive, especially to the diverse Latin American communities in the area.

Andres Fierro was born in Big Spring, Texas. His family moved to Michigan to join extended family members and pursue work in harvesting fields. After graduating from West Ottawa High School in 1968, he worked and lived in California and Oklahoma. He also worked for the West Ottawa Public Schools as a bilingual teacher's assistant. He then decided to attend Hope, and after graduating in 1979 went on to pursue a pastoral degree from Western Theological Seminary. For the past 20 years, he has served as pastor of Crossroad Chapel. He is married to Deb and has two sons.

Victor M. Perez was born in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, the youngest of six children. His family migrated to Michigan in the summer of 1974. He graduated from Fennville High School and then went on to receive a B.A. in education from Western Michigan University and an M.A. in educational leadership from Grand Valley State University. He has worked in education for more than 20 years as a paraprofessional, a teacher and an administrator, mostly with the Fennville Public Schools. He currently teaches ESL at Harbor Lights Middle School for the West Ottawa Public Schools. He is married to Diane and has a son, Enrique, a fourth grader at Lakewood Elementary.

Gerardo (Gerry) Ruffino was born in Pueblo, Mexico, and raised in Key West, Fla., before moving with his family to Zeeland. He graduated from Zeeland High School in 2004 and is currently a sophomore at Hope, where he is active in many organizations. He is president of La Raza Unida and a resident assistant, and will soon serve as a diversity educator with residential life. He works in the college's Office of Multicultural Life, and was a student representative on a committee that reviewed the college's Comprehensive Plan to Improve Minority Participation at Hope. He has also served on the Rotary Club's leadership conference for seventh graders.