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Most students at Highland High School know him as Don Johnson's no-nonsense boss in "Miami Vice," and it seemed Wednesday that Edward James Olmos' personality in many ways fits his tough-guy persona.

Olmos, whose credits also include "Zoot Suit," "American Me" and "Stand and Deliver," was quick to chastise any students he noticed drifting off to sleep or not paying attention during his remarks in the school auditorium. His message on personal responsibility was firm and to the point."You can make excuses as much as you want, but eventually you're going to realize it was nothing but an excuse," he said.

Olmos said he suffers from a form of dyslexia so severe that it is difficult for him to understand written text. There were times in high school when teachers would tell his parents, "your son just doesn't get it - he's dumb."

But instead of resigning himself to a life of mediocrity and failure, "Miami Vice's" Lt. Castillo said he learned to work hard and discipline himself to accomplish whatever task he had at hand. His work habits and perseverance were traits he said he hoped Highland High students would learn to nurture in themselves.

"Anybody who wants to do anything in this room - boy, you're living in the right country," he said. "I am not special. I didn't come out of my mother's womb saying `To be or not to be.' "

Olmos' remarks were part of the weeklong National IMAGE Training Conference and Convention, which began Monday and continues until Saturday.

In other conference-related events, about 350 local Hispanic youths are scheduled to gather Friday at the Salt Palace for workshops on topics ranging from youth violence and peer pressure to leadership training and educational pursuits. A women's action committee workshop at the Salt Palace focused on professional development training and types of experience needed to assure positions of greater responsibility.

Rudolfo Acuna, a professor at California State University at Northridge and author of "Occupied America," will speak Friday at the University of Utah on racism, prejudice, discrimination and immigrant rights.

IMAGE, or Incorporation of Mexican American Government Employees, was created in 1972 to increase opportunities for Hispanics in areas of employment, education and civil rights. Since its formation, the organization has expanded its scope to include a broad variety of issues affecting the Hispanic community.