'Barely going to graduate high school? Come on! We will figure it out!'

EUGENE, Ore. - The League of United Latin American Citizens and county and city representitves recognized the state's first supported youth council.

The youth group - mostly run by local college graduates - aims to provide an alternative to steer troubled kids away from dropping out of school or joining gangs.

LULAC council president Juan Carlos Valle said drop-out rates for Latino Americans and African Americans are too high.

The group is targeting students ages 13 to 20 - those most vulnerable.

"The families need that kind of support, the young adults need that kind of support," Valle said. "We must invest in them, we must provide these opportunities."

The youth group will educate latinos on the importance of graduating high school and moving on to college.

Youth councilor and University of Oregon graduate Liliana Villanueva said the group will give low-income, struggling families and students opportunities to succeed.

"If it's a person that's barely going to graduate high school - come on! We will figure it out!" she said. "You want to go to community college? We will figure it out. You want to go to a university, we'll figure it out. So we're open to bringing in any type of youth."

And it's proved to be successful, helping Churchill High School graduate Liliana Sampedro reach the next step.

"It's all about educating people not only like what the benefits are of a college degree, but just improving your lives and improving the lives of others," said Sampedro, who plans to attend Brown University.