On Monday evening, Daniela Lopez, Chicago senior, hosted a panel discussion with six Albion College students for her research on the Latinx experience on campus. The panel answered questions focused on voicing the experiences and potential needs of those who identify themselves as Latinx students, and was attended by both students and faculty.
Panel members consisted of students from a wide range of backgrounds, including Adriana Valeno, Chicago senior; Frank Hernandez, Houston senior; Mauricio Perez Garcia, Dallas junior; Mateo Diaz, San Jose sophomore; Jimena Perez, Chicago junior and Irene Corona-Avila, Lawrenceville, Ga. senior.
“We need to understand that just because we all have the Latinx label, that’s all it is. It doesn’t mean we all have the same needs, and we need to support each other,” said Lopez.
For the students who shared their stories, the conversation proved to be rather personal. The student panel did not deliver prepared speeches or statements until the end, and instead spoke about the challenges and experiences they encounter on a day-to-day basis.
Attendees listened and were educated on how the life of a Latinx student on campus is sometimes not an easy one.
During the course of the talk, one topic that was encountered repeatedly is the lack of an at-home support system for many of the Latinx students. According to the speakers, many of their parents did not have the opportunity to go to college, and cannot relate to the experiences of the their children as first-generation students. Their collegiate lifestyle is often misconstrued as an easy, privileged life rather than the intense work that it is.
“The idea of higher education being a paradise was always taught to me growing up, it was almost described to me as the reward at the end of high school,” said Perez Garcia. “And it’s scary, because I have to do this, I have to be the one to make it, for my parents and for my entire community, and that’s a lot of pressure. My parents are supportive to an extent, but still think college is butterflies and rainbows. It’s very hard to let them know that I’m struggling.”
Another issue that was discussed was the question of whether the students felt like they belonged. According to a U.S. Department of Education poll taken in fall of 2020, Latinx students make up roughly 12% of Albion College’s population. According to the students, this statistic contributes to Latinx students feeling disconnected from their school.
“Sometimes I definitely feel like I don’t belong, and that’s just being honest,” said Valeno. I was really struggling freshman year with adjusting to college life and how different it was here. There’s so much pressure, being who I am, and sort of a negative stigma around Latinx students. If I fail, everyone thinks ‘well, of course she did.’
Toward the end of the panel, students expressed that the problems that Latinx students face on campus are not without solutions, although it would require serious effort on behalf of the college. The panel members also expressed advice they would share to future Latinx students at Albion.
“You don’t have to feel like you are carrying your entire community and should just focus on being your own person. Don’t be afraid to try new things and have new experiences. You should be able to do that without being scared,” said Perez.