The 5th annual Latino Students Forum opened up heavy discussions on the conflicts many Latino students face.
The forum, held Tuesday, September 24, drew in large crowds of students looking to connect with other Latino students.
Solidarity was the word used repeatedly by Gabael Botello, student trustee and the coordinator of the event.
“I’m trying to achieve solidarity here on campus within the Latin American population,” said Botello. “We shouldn’t be just focused on getting out of here, we should come together and be open to new values and belief systems.”
Though the event was put on by the Cadena Center, it was completely student run. The forum included discussions in small groups with a student facilitator directing the talks. Afterwards the groups got together to address those issues during an open floor session.
“We wanted it to be students speaking and directing the questions rather than administrators,” said Botello. “This allows for more discussion and confidence. If you see someone from a similar background as you up there, you’ll be able to speak more freely.”
Students spoke about the struggles and setbacks they have faced at school or at the workplace and the things they can possibly change in order to face more welcoming environments.
Although the topics were heavy, the discussions were lighthearted which encouraged students to participate.
Facilitator Ricardo Muñiz believes that Latino students do not dedicate enough time to talk with each other.
“We’re always stuck in our daily routines of other responsibilities and duties. We never sit down and unite together and have a conversation. It’s really important to bring that solidarity and unity into the room and create that sense of belonging,” said Muniz.
The facilitators also hoped for good feedback from the students. Another purpose of this forum is to relay everyone’s input back to the Cadena Center. With that information in mind, more resources and opportunities can hopefully be made to help better accommodate Latino students.
“This [forum] is about wanting Latino students to feel welcome on their campus and letting them know that this is their school and it’s here to help serve them,” said Andreka Rivera, another facilitator at the .
This year’s forum may be over but the facilitators advise that other Latino students should look for events and clubs to participate in, like the FC Dream Team, MEChA, and Latina Leadership Network Student Club.
“You’re not alone. We’re here to help you. Just because we are a minority doesn’t mean that we have to stay in the shadows,” said Botello.