Latinx students at SLCC reaching further in scope and impact
Feb 28, 2019 02:34PM
By Jet Burnham
Latinx United for Change and Activism is a group of driven student leaders. (Richard Diaz/SLCC)
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
Latinx student leaders at Salt Lake Community College have so many ideas to create impactful experiences for Latinx/os/as students, they outgrew their previous leadership association.
“With LIA [Latinos In Action] they were very limited, particularly in terms of their scope—what conversations they could have and what they could do,” said Richard Diaz, interim director for the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at Salt Lake Community College, Redwood Campus. “This new rebranding under the Student Life clubs organization gave them the opportunity to expand and do more in ways that they couldn’t do before.”
Student leaders established LuChA, Latinx/os/as United for Change and Activism, under the umbrella of college clubs. They now have greater flexibility in how they can reach out to current and prospective students and how they implement their ideas for creating a supportive environment on campus.
“Many of them just came out of high school, too, so they have a very good sense of what the need is,” said Diaz. “They’re trying to create a program that reflects the needs of those high school students that are coming in.”
The organization has provided more opportunities to develop leaders.
“The school is really good at creating opportunities and having conversations to really help students articulate their thoughts and help them find ways to share their vision,” said Diaz.
Their vision included a daylong conference for high school students held Jan. 25. Latinx students from high schools across the Wasatch Front were invited; 244 students attended.
LuChA leaders and community professionals taught workshops focused on college readiness (scholarships, college resources) and cultural topics (health disparity and cultural identity and pride) as well as social justice and gender norms.
Andrew Busath, a teacher at Kearns High School, brought 43 students to the conference. He said the workshop topics were relevant to his students.
“They were appropriate and ones that interest the kids,” he said. “It’s great because they don’t get to talk about these things in school, but they are issues that are on their minds.”
Busath recognized some of the LuChA leaders—they were high school LIA officers just a few years ago.
“It makes it a little more special that these kids are a couple years ahead and know what they’re really going through and can really relate,” said Busath.
The focus of the conference was to promote higher education and educate students about resources available to them. Diaz said he hoped students came away seeing college as a viable option in their future.
“A lot of them are first-generation college students,” said Joan Lopez, LuChA VP of Programming. “Most of the time they don’t have the resources or know who to talk to so this is away to get them started.”
Keynote speaker, Sebastian Uprimny, a SLCC alum and Olympian, spoke to students about achieving goals.
Cindy Diaz-Rey, a senior from Bingham High School, was inspired by the Olympian’s story and the obstacles he overcame to represent Colombia as a cross-country skier in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
“He was trying to empower people through his story and his struggles,” she said.
She felt empowered by the conference—especially the workshop about cultural identity.
“I think it’s very important for us to recognize our roots and not be ashamed of it,” said Diaz-Rey, who feels community support is imperative.
Diaz said cultural identity was a very popular topic for students at the conference.
“Because a lot of the Latino community has indigenous roots, there’s a lot of exploration of what that means for our community, how that impacts our way of thinking, how those are strengths for us to rely on to navigate challenges that we face—so really our culture as an asset and not so much as a deficit,” said Diaz.
LuChA co-President Jenny Jimenez said another goal of the conference was to connect high school students to a support system that will help them have a more successful college experience.
“I want these high school students to know they have friends here, that they can come talk to us,” she said.
Andrea Xiques, a sophomore from Kearns High School, said there was a good vibe at the conference.
“I found this conference really moving, and I really want to come again,” she said. “This conference makes me want to push more because education is such a big key to succeed in life.”