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The Chronicle

The Chronicle

The Chronicle

The Latinx experience at CLC

Ironically community colleges get a bad stigma for not having a strong community. I disagree. The College of Lake County (CLC) has helped me find my place as a leader and helped me feel connected to my culture.

My culture is very important to me. CLC has hosted multiple events that have inspired me such as the Day of the Dead workshop, the Latinx graduation ceremony, and United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI).

Katrina Davis-Salazar is currently the Recruitment and Student Life Specialist at the Lakeshore campus. One of her responsibilities is to oversee multiple art workshops throughout the academic year, among those is the Day of the Dead workshop.

“I do feel that it is an important holiday because it is so different from what we are taught in the United States,” Davis-Salazar said. She went on to say that as time progresses, each Latinx generation’s understanding of the Day of the Dead holiday changes.

“I do love that people are starting to know more about Dia de los Muertos and celebrate it more here in the United States and respect it and just learn about it even if they don’t celebrate it,” Davis-Salazar said.

She explained how she enjoyed being around others while celebrating the holiday. “Sitting here tonight not only were people making art but they felt free to talk about loved ones that had died,” she said. She mentioned how in no other context would strangers open up like this and how people want to hear your stories and feel more comfortable sharing theirs.

Davis-Salazar opened up about her best friend and father’s death and how this is a time of healing for her. “I do feel that it is important because connecting ourselves to our ancestors is the way to heal from death.”

“I feel like I can sit and do my demo and talk about Amy,” said Davis-Salazar. She reflected on how she puts wine and Pop Tarts for her best friend, Amy, in her ofrenda. She said that she loves decorating her ofrenda, which means “offering,” with marigolds, skulls, Mexican pottery, and Coke for her father.

Katrina painting. Courtesy of Katrina Davis-Salazar.

Davis-Salazar shared that the public ofrenda with the CLC community is very important to her.

Jesus Ruiz had asked her after COVID to spearhead the making of the ofrenda because of all the deaths that happened. Ever since then, it has been an ongoing annual tradition.

She stated how the ofrenda brings together people of different backgrounds as well. She reflected on how it used to be just a small one in the old student life building but it has gradually expanded.

When asked why death shouldn’t be taboo, Davis-Salazar said that “we are all going to die,” and that it shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing but rather as part of our story.

She also added that she advocates for art and states that it’s essential for mental health and problem-solving skills. Davis-Salazar emphasized that CLC should continue to hold events that connect with culture and bring together the community. It also helps people work and do better because they feel seen and supported.

Another memorable experience for me at CLC was the Latinx graduation celebration that I attended in 2023. Rodolfo Ruiz-Velasco, the Latinx Student Outreach and Programs coordinator, stated that “the idea is to celebrate the students and families and making sure we get connected with them so in the future they can come back to CLC and work for us or have a pool of students that can talk about their experiences.”

Ruiz-Velasco explained that he has worked at the college for the last 22 years and is a part of the Latinx Outreach and Success Committee, which oversees projects such as the Latinx graduation celebration.

When asked about the committee, Rodolfo responded with, “In 2014 we started a committee where we look at the retention and enrollment of Latinx students and also talk about events and activities that we need to organize to support the Latinx students.”

Mariachis known as Las Sirenas, Rodolfo, and I

He elaborated on how he works alongside Gema Mariscal in helping students win scholarships and financial aid support. He explained that teamwork is crucial and he works closely with several faculty and staff to grow and develop the Latinx population.

When Ruiz-Velasco started at the college, the Latinx population was only 5-7 % and currently it’s close to 40%. He reflected on his time and stated that he loves to see the growth.

Ruiz-Velasco explained that the idea of the Latinx graduation celebration started five years ago and was inspired by the African-American graduation celebration. It initially was just set in the spring semester, but now it’s being done every semester. The college used to have a policy that no one could wear stoles but a proposal was passed to represent cultural stoles by Beverly Phelps, which led to the first African-American graduation celebration.

He also went on and explained how he is originally from Jalisco, Guadalajara, and came to the United States at the age of 29. He feels his job keeps him connected to his roots and how he loves seeing students’ journeys and their struggles that they have overcome. He enjoys seeing them succeed and be happy while completing their education.

When asked why he feels that having a separate celebration for Latinx students is important, he answered that, “it’s important for people to see that CLC recognizes the traditions of latino students.” He also stated that it is important to acknowledge backgrounds that have been marginalized.

My mother and I at the Latinx celebration.

Ruiz-Velasco stated that his favorite memory of the celebration is seeing all the families, tíos, and abuelitos. He also mentions that there was a paper craft in the shape of a tree that was made for the celebration, which students and families could write on its leaves, which represents the roots and serves as a reminder to be proud of them.

Each year it keeps growing! Last year there were 200 attendees, and this year there were over 300 attendees.

“I am so proud of the staff and faculty that helped support the event and I want to congratulate all of the students that graduated! ¡felicidades!,” Ruiz- Velasco said.

Another memorable event that I attended was the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI) conference. We stayed at the Marriott in Chicago for three days for the conference.

In the said event, there were many successful Latinos that spoke on their experiences and gave us advice. I enjoyed listening to Dr. Antonia Novello’s speech. She was the first ever Latina U.S surgeon general. In her speech, she stated that our aim could never be too high, but rather it could be too low.

I spoke at the Latinx graduation ceremony

We also heard from Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa who is a neurosurgeon and was on the Netflix show, The Surgeon’s Cut.

We also heard Stephanie La Rue, the Chief of Diversity at the National Intelligence, Patricia Perez Fresard, a chief judge at Wayne Court, Pepe Serna, who is a film actor and artist, and many more successful Latinos.

We also attended a variety of forums where we learned about various topics. We learned how only 8% of advanced degree holders in the U.S are Latino and how to conquer imposter syndrome and how to put yourself out there.

They also offered professional headshots for only $20 and offered advice for creating your linkedin profile. We also danced reggaetón and had a karaoke night. I went with Latino Alliance, and I made lots of new friends.

Overall, I have had an amazing experience at CLC and have felt connected with my culture, making the college become my second home.

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About the Contributor
Iliana Padilla
Iliana Padilla, Editor-in-Chief