Discuss Success: Latinx Students Come Together to Share College Experience

LWGRC and CMSA sponsored a student-led group discussion about the Latinx college experience. @MC_LWGRC/COURTESY

By Anna Woods, Senior Writer

The LWGRC and CMSA sponsored a small group discussion about college experiences as a Latinx student as part of the Discuss Success lecture series. 

The series is a student-led group meeting and discussion that aims to provide a supportive space for all Latinx students to gain support from their peers. The group of about fifteen students shared personal stories about balancing school, work and family responsibilities. Commuting struggles and lack of in-campus cultural awareness were other topics of conversation. The meeting grew out of the work of Andy Ortiz, a LWGRC research scholar and co-moderator for the event, who studied intersectional obstacles impacting Latinx students. 

“I was studying or doing research on how low socioeconomic status (SES) and gender roles in the Hispanic community impact students’ experiences getting into college,” Ortiz said. 

He shared that he saw trends when it came to what majors Latinx students choose, many of which were STEM related. 

“What I had found was that, like at Manhattan College alone, there was a significant increase of  Latinx people being admitted to college. And a lot of the time more Latinos might major in what you can consider it more like bolder, more scientific fields,” Ortiz said.  

He explained that socioeconomic status can impact the student’s major based on the post-graduated expected salary. 

“If you’re growing up like low SES, you feel less like, ‘Oh, I’m going to take the risk and like go for acting’ because there’s very little money unless you make it big, so [instead] they’ll just be like, ‘Oh, I’m going to be an engineer,” Ortiz said. “I’m going to be in STEM,’ whatever else that might look like. So seeing that, I wanted to create, Discuss Success.”

Ortiz shared the importance of groups like this, and how Latinx students often face more obstacles than their white counterparts.

“Discuss Success is majorly focused on providing a safe space for other Latino students where we can talk about our experiences on the Manhattan College campus,” said Ortiz. “[But also] a lot of the time you have a lot of family responsibilities, like taking care of kids, doing the dishes, and doing laundry.  A lot of the time, colleges don’t really have accommodations for POC students.”.

He noted that he was not inspired to create this because of the lack of spaces for the Latinx community on campus. 

 “They’re not all spaces for POC people in general,”  Ortiz said. “There’s Fuerza Latina, but outside of that, there’s not too much going on where we can actually just sit down and be like, ‘This is my experience. I want it to be known.’ Maybe we can use those experiences to kind of leverage change in the actual community itself,” 

Senior Yuryece Candelario served as co-moderator for the discussion and shared that many students share the same feelings when it comes to thinking about how the college can best support them.

“I will say that from what I hear from other [Latinx] students, it’s that they are lacking that sense of community,” Candelario said. “They want to be more represented,” 

She suggested that there be other ways to engage the community in addition to Fuerza Latina. The involvement of faculty and staff is one of her solutions. 

“I know we would like to see more faculty or, you know, administrators that are actually getting involved in the community in the same way the language department does, [by] hosting events,” Candelario said. 

She shared that Spanish language events help unite the community even further.

“When we have the Spanish events, we see more things are kind of connect us with our culture,” Candelario said.

As a commuter, Candelario explained that getting involved is more difficult and suggested that the wider MC community should be mindful of the timing of certain events.

“The major population of students who are Latinx are commuters,” Candelario said. “So when having these types of Latinx events, try to be mindful of the timing of these events. I heard that for many students, you know, when they try to go home it’s pretty late at night.”

Many of those in attendance at the meeting were commuters, so Candelario and Ortiz shifted the conversation to highlight the issues that those types of students face. 

“We focused on [discussing] how to create that sense of community within commuters, and within the Latinx community,” Candelario said. “We shared many experiences of things that concern us from class schedules to meeting times or resources available, and all the things that we would like to see change or we would like for the school to keep in mind when they are doing different events.”

Overall, Candelario expressed that these types of events are vital for the community and allow Latinx students to use their voices to share how the school can improve. 

Ortiz stated that the response has been overwhelmingly positive and he is thrilled to have a safe space on campus to discuss pertinent issues. He strives to maintain this safe space so students can come and see other students who are experiencing similar things.  

Freshman Elliot Babilonia, who attended the meeting, praised Ortiz for creating this space as it has helped him feel more ‘seen’ on campus. He explained that seeing upperclassmen succeed was inspiring,

“Being a first generation and being, you know, a student at this private Lasallian school, I don’t really fit in, being Hispanic,” Babilonia said. “It’s been really rough just trying to get through it. Being able to talk about my experiences, you know, with other Hispanic people that are experiencing the same thing and have been through what I’ve been through. It was very inspirational and impactful for me, because I feel like I got a lot out of, you know, being surrounded by my people.”

Babilonia also expressed that these meetings have shown him what success can look like for Latinx students and named Ortiz as a role model.

“[This] gives me a role model to look up to, you know, seeing somebody succeed while being Hispanic while going to the school making it as far as to become a graduate student and while being trans,” Babilonia said. 

Ortiz encourages all Latinx students to not let their past and identities limit themselves from fighting for their dreams.

“Just because you’re not white, just because you’re not privileged … doesn’t mean you don’t have the same capabilities for success,” Ortiz said. “You’ve just been societally suppressed where you have to be the third parent or balance classes and work … Your background and your own experiences don’t determine what you can and can’t do.”

The next Discuss Success group will meet in conjunction with the Rainbow Jaspers to discuss the Latinx and LGBTQ+ community towards the end of March. For questions and more information, contact eortiz02@manahttan.edu.