Life as a Migrant Student

Being a migrant student means being forced to move to different states due to parents looking for a job. These students make significant changes as they move from state to state in order to earn an income and support their family.I am one of the thousand migrant students in this country that work hard to help my parents.

The significant sacrifices and obstacles migrant students face make them strong. They face so many problems, but still manage to fine a balance between their school and life. What defines migrant students are their work ethic and willingness to keep moving forward, yet few people are aware of the hardships we, as students, face.

The Journey

Most students would say they travel, spend time with their family at the beach or in a different state during the summer, but that’s not the case for migrant students. Summertime is the opportunity to work instead of a time of relaxation. Migrant students spend their whole summer working in the fields, which is something they can choose to do or not do. However, this is a responsibility that the majority of migrant students take on in order to help their family. Their summer starts like a road trip where they travel to a new state far away from their home state.The road trip to the location is very tiring and can sometimes lead to accidents since it’s such a long ways ahead.  Looking for a place to live is just as stressful because sometimes the camps have harsh rules that must be followed and the rent most of the time is expensive.

Moving to different states means migrant students have to adapt to the new environment and work all the time. The struggles most of them have is not being able to focus on school or do other things they like because of the work schedule. The locations for work vary from Michigan to North Carolina and New Jersey.

A typical summer for a migrant student usually lasts 3 to 6 months with 12 hour work days, depending on how long the crops last. Some parents wait until school has ended to move to another state but not all. Returning to school is not easy because they don’t know if they are going back to the same school or will be able meet their friends again.

A former migrant student, Irene, has traveled to New Jersey to work in blueberry field for the past eight years. She started working right when school ends and returned to Florida when the crops end.

“My work experience is challenging because you have to work for long hours with the sun blazing over you,” adds Irene.

As the days go by migrant students learn the most valuable lessons in life. Working there allows one to realize how one must work hard in order to achieve their goals. The work conditions they face are harsh that include sun exposure (sunburn), chemicals, splinters, as well as other conditions that physically harms them.  Slowly, the summer days come to an end and the crops fade away. For some migrant students this means they can return to school, but, for others, this means moving with their parents to find additional work elsewhere.

Enrolling in a new school is the most overwhelming obstacle. Regardless whether the school system is the same or different, the students have to catch up on everything they missed since the beginning of school.

For migrant students, the start of school is not the first day of class. Rather, the first day of class is after the crops cycle has ended. Olgareli, a former migrant student, moved to North Carolina in the middle of the school year, then Michigan, and, finally, returned to Florida when school was already in session.

Academic Hardships

Starting school late is stressful because migrant students have to make up exams from last school year, catch up their current classes, as well as improve their English efficiency.Since most migrant students speak another language at home, like Spanish, they have a hard time separating the English language and Spanish language. This leads them to language, grammar, and punctuation barriers.

Common academic hardships are falling behind on school work, not having enough credits to graduate, and not being able to take certain classes because they are full or are conflict, like being too ahead, in order for the student to take the class. For example, if a student wanted to take Chemistry honors and enrolled late they might not be able to take that class because of late registration since the class is too ahead. Being a migrant student, unless they come at the start of the school, means delayed or missed opportunities.Falling behind on course work happens frequently. This influences their performance in school and can sometimes lead to dropping out. When the end of year exams start, migrant students are already in a different state because the start of another crop is starting. Missing exams is the downside of being a migrant student because the student has to make up all the exams and course work they missed.

There are resources that help migrant students, like the migrant program. In this program, migrant advocates motivate and push the students to succeed in school. Whether it is passing their final exams or catching up on their class, migrant advocates find any way to help their students.  One former migrant advocates states, “Migrant student are the strongest kids that I know because they are able to work in the field, handle moving from state to state as well as are able to maintain the schoolwork.” Migrant student work hard not only to maintain themselves, but also to maintain their family.

Dealing with College Rejection—now what?

I remember getting rejected from my dream school like it was just yesterday. It was early spring of 2013 and I was on a class trip when I got the fateful email from The University of Chicago. “Dear Eliani, we regret to inform you,” I stopped reading there. ‘Dear Eliani?’ I scoffed. I wasn’t dear. If I was dear they would have let me in. ‘We regret to inform you,’ I rolled my eyes. If you really regretted it, you would have let me in. To say that I was crushed is an understatement. I went off to be by myself for a few hours and cried about what then felt like a great loss.

But I couldn’t mope for long. I was about to graduate, my next question—as should be yours—was “What next?” Hopefully, you’re like me and didn’t put all of your eggs in one basket and applied to multiple schools. And if you did, that’s okay too. A lot of schools have rolling admission and late deadlines, so even if you got rejected from your one school, or even all of your schools, there’s still plenty of hope that you’ll make it to college in the fall.

Despite there still being hope, it might still be tough to just get over the rejection. A few things to remember are that a degree is a degree, and your education will be just as valuable and just as much of an investment even if you have to go to a state school versus a fancy ivy league. Secondly, if you’re trying to go into a field where you will require a post graduate education—for example, if you’re trying to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a businesswoman—where you get your undergraduate degree matters a whole lot less. A lot of us are inclined to go to the fancy out of state private school. We all shoot for the Harvards, the Cornells, the Carnegies, but when you’re looking at another 6-10 years of school after high school, you have to ask yourself: do you have Harvard money?

Maybe none of this is helping, and you’re still bummed you won’t be going to your dream school in the fall. My next recommendation would be to research the schools you did get into. Find reasons to fall in love with them. Do they have a really cool tradition that you’re excited to be a part of? Do they have a budding Greek life that you wouldn’t have thought to join at your dream school? Are they in really great locations that you never would have thought to live in had you not applied?

If you’re like me, you don’t take rejection well, and despite telling yourself that you’re saving money and starting to fall in love with your new alma matter, you’re still reeling from the rejection. I remember going to my college orientation, still miserable that I wasn’t on a plane to Chicago. I also remember falling in love with my campus the second I set foot on it. I remember marveling at how different the city was from my home town. And most importantly, I remember the excitement I had as I explored and met new people, and finally felt happy to be attending my new school.

My main takeaway is this: There are plenty of fish in the sea, and even more universities for you to apply to. They might not be the school of your dreams, but they have every potential to be the schools of your successful and happy reality.

Mi Familia: Grandma Jenny

My Great-grandma Jenny has always been a role model for me. Every Wednesday she heads over to Juarez, where she has her ministry Jehova Proveera Ministerio. As a ministry rather than a church, Jehova Proveera Ministerio  not only teaches the Word, but also provides those in poverty with necessities like food and clothing. On occasion, treats might also be provided. On Christmas, for example, toys are given to the children, and there is a large feast.

“People are looking for hope. They need it,” my grandma claims. “But a lot of people want hand-me-outs from places that don’t teach the Word.”

For my grandma, scripture has always been her source of inspiration and direction in life. 34 years ago, when the ministry began, it was a series of Bible verses that convinced her that beginning the ministry was God’s will.

The idea to alleviate the less fortunate came from the common Biblical theme to help those in need.

“We went to church and were following the teachings of Jesus,” my grandma attributed.

At first my great-grandma and her husband Ray Tapia helped another ministry. During those years there were “more pure people. And they were hungry. They needed clothes.”

Seeing the tragic reality, my grandma prayed that  “God would take us to Juarez,” and that “Jesus would let us know by scripture that it was okay to start the ministry.”

These verses led Grandma Jenny and Grandpa Ray to believe that God has given His consent, the first being found on a certificate my great-grandpa earned in a church group:

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

                                                                                            -II Corinthians 5:18-20

Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

                                                                                                      -James 2:15-17

 

When my grandparents set out to start the ministry, a woman from one of the ministries they worked with told them that they could have their “ministry here in the outdoors.”

Up went the chairs, picnic tables, and groups of volunteers. Eventually, a building with a large room for worship, a bathroom, kid’s room, and a kitchen, would be built.

Although finding enough money to build or buy supplies for the ministry can be difficult, and transporting goods across the border can be a hassle, my grandma says that “God has [always] supplied for us. People always donate.”

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“One of the ministries that helped us was [the] YouthWorks Foundation [of Minnesota],” my grandma remembers. “[The] Youth stopped coming because of the shootings (in Juarez). Parents were concerned. But they (the youth volunteers) were the primary constructors.” In fact, it was the youth who built the ministry that stands today. Young people often told my grandma that they would volunteer to help educate others, but ended up being the ones who learned the true meaning of faith.

“They (individuals whom live in poverty) were happy even though they had nothing. The people were very grateful. It made us happy to see them come for the Word of God on their own.” Grandma Jenny testifies. She suggests that if you want to help a cause, you “need to go visit and see first-hand.”

Ever since she began the ministry, my grandma has “more peace” and can “see the potential in people and what they can do if they trust God.” As a teenager, she considered herself average.

“I didn’t finish high school because I wanted a job to buy nice clothes. I got married early,” my grandma laughs, regretting that she never completed her education. Education is something she values highly now, striving for each child in the ministry to have the chance to attend school.

There are about 50 children in all. Half in elementary, and half in junior high. The junior high students go to class in the morning and get out in time for lunch. Afterward, the elementary students go for their schooling, coming back later in the afternoon. Thus, every year, my grandma fundraises for uniforms and school supplies for each of these children.

On a typical day, the first thing my grandma and her four helpers (a cook and three other volunteers. Originally, my great-grandpa was the pastor, but after he died, a pastor comes and does the preaching and music.) do is discipleship and worship, which involves guitar and piano-based Christian music. Then, the children go to Bible study while the adults listen to the preaching. Afterward, the children are fed first, before or after school (depending on the time they go.). The adults are then fed and given a sack of beans, rice, and manseca (corn meal) each, for the remainder of the week.

“The Lord has been good to us. We love the people and they love Him. That’s what makes it work,”my grandma explains. That is the message she wants to instill in future generations. If you want to make a difference, you need motivation, and you’ll need to love God. For love conquers all.

My grandma has that kind of love and passion. While some people think that people join her ministry just to eat, my grandma sees it differently. What she sees is people who are not only physically, but spiritually hungry. When they are shown love through the way God’s people provide for them physically, they inevitably feel love for God Himself.

Spotlight: Diane Guerrero’s “In the Country We Love”

Latinitas and Diane

Latinitas and Diane

Written by Ari Gonzalez

Diane Guerrero is best known for her work on the hit TV shows Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, however, Diane is also a huge activist for immigration reform and the author of the book In the Country We Love. She is the daughter of two Colombian immigrants who were deported when she was only 14 years old, leaving her completely alone in the United States. In her book In the Country We Love, Diane discusses the hardships her parents had to face during their time in America, and how she was able to get to where she is today without her parents and older brother. We had the pleasure to speak to Diane at the Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas. about her book, as well as what it is like being a Latina in the entertainment industry.

Who did you turn to when you were afraid after your family was deported?
“I turned to my friends, I had family friends and I called them and they took me in.”

What advice do you have that may be in the same situation you were in?
“They need to inform themselves, it’s a matter of educating yourself, your family, and your community. I would say being involved as much as you can, you are a political being and you have a responsibility, and knowledge is power and once you have that under your belt then you can find different avenues where you can defend yourself.”

You have such great comedic timing, how are you able to stay so positive and be so funny after everything that you went through?
It’s the way I deal with things. If I don’t laugh, I cry, so I do my best to continue laughing. I also love laughing at my own jokes. It is something that I definitely got from my dad, he would always be so funny and laugh at his own jokes and I think that is where I get it from.”

What is it like being a Latina in the film industry?
“It is certainly difficult but not impossible as you can see. I think the first step is believing that we can, and making ourselves heard. I think it is so important that we represent ourselves and realize that we are a part of this narrative, and that we are a part of this country and that is our country too. I think it is getting better, and I am certainly not going to give up and I hope others join me in this. I think all we have to do is just show up.”

In The Country We Love tells the moving, inspirational story of a young Latina who beat the odds and accomplished her dreams. Diane Guerrero’s bravery to share her story inspires me and Latinas everywhere to try and make a difference. If you haven’t had the chance go read In The Country We Love and inform yourself on how you can help make a difference and bring more awareness to immigration reform.

Self-Love is a Revolution

Above my bedroom wall you will see a piece of paper and written on it is Love Yourself. It serves as a reminder to do just that, love myself. There is no magic book, no magic cure to self-love. Self-love can only come from one source and that is you.

You are the person that is going to get yourself out of bed, that is going to look at yourself in the mirror and give yourself the love that you deserve. As a self-identified queer Xicana, it can be hard to wake up and see the beauty in myself. As anyone who identifies as a Latina in this world, it can be difficult to see the beauty of who they are when the world is telling them that their bodies, skin and language is not enough.

You have to realize that you are worthy of living, that you are capable of fighting your past and present and that you can give the love that you’ve always needed. Whether it be repeatedly going to therapy, setting your limits, telling others to respect your boundaries, taking some time off, exercising, writing your heart out, whatever it may be, do it.

According to Ovc.org (Office for Victims of Crime), it is possible that “by the year 2050, the amount of Latinas who have experienced some form of sexual violence could reach 10.8 million.” Toxic relationships, abusive households, are a result of this sexual violence. Let go of toxic relationships, people and places that give you no growth. Realize that you are made of pure gold and deserve the best. Self-love is not easy. You will fall down, you will relapse, and you will question yourself. And that’s okay. That’s more than okay. You are a complex, multidimensional human being and with that comes flaws, mistakes and regrets.

Remember that your being is a revolution. That your hair, your body, skin color, everything that you are made up of is a revolution. And when all aspects of your life are telling you otherwise realize that self-love is an extraordinary revolution.

And We’ll Keep on Dancing

On June 12, 2016, 49 Queer Latinx and Black people were killed in Pulse, a popular queer POC nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Several news outlets deemed it as the worst mass shooting in United States history. * As soon as the news was heard, several individuals and communities came together to host vigils for the 49 Latinx and Black Queer lives that were lost to violence. To grieve, to mourn, to be angry.

However, mainstream news outlets such as CNN automatically pointed to the mass shooter and his relationship with Islam. Conversations about gun control and Islamophobia were the main concerns about this tragedy. How about the deep homophobia that was the anchor of the shooting? How about the toxic masculinity that the shooter was obviously dealing with? How about the parents who’s biggest fear of losing their child to explicit queer violence actually came true? How about how ethnicity and race were at the forefront of this tragedy?

To all the beautiful queer Latinx lives that are no longer with us, to the lives that were lost to the homophobic violence, to the lives that got whitewashed by the mainstream media, your lives mattered and they still do. The queer latinx communities all over the world will never forget the beautiful, complex, and resilient lives that were dancing and living their queer Latinx lives.

Your lives will be honored by one of the greatest revolutions: dancing. Our souls will remember the fear and systemic violence that was enacted on our communities and dance with even more joy and resilience. We’ll dance the salsa, the bachata, the merengue with the bodies that we were given and always remember to be free whenever we have a chance. And we’ll honor you with honoring ourselves and our true queer, Latinx selves.

 *The Wounded Knee Massacre that happened in South Dakota in 1890 has been the worst massacre in the United States.

Rape Culture in Hispanic Communities

Teens holding handsYou will not find a single family sitcom that does not have at least one episode dedicated to “the talk.” The likelihood of flipping through the TV channels late at night and stumbling upon a scene of a teenager in 1980’s acid-wash jeans, having a heart-to-heart about the birds and the bees with their shoulder-padded parent, is much greater than your chance of being struck by lightning. The chances that this conversation would be taking place in a Hispanic household, though? Not so great.

In the Hispanic culture, discussing sex with your child is seen widely as taboo, or inappropriate. For many Hispanic youth, the uncomfortable acknowledgement of a transition from childhood to young adulthood is made only in the form of a short statement: be careful. These two simple words mean something too simple when told to a son; be careful not to get her pregnant. Yet when told to a daughter, their meaning changes drastically from advice to warning. For a Hispanic woman, ten cuidado often translates to, “Be careful… not to show too much. Be careful… not to give the wrong idea. Be careful… not to get raped.”

Sexual assault is an issue that affects innocent women across all cultures. In the United States, 1 in 5 women, both Hispanic and non-Hispanic, are sexually assaulted during their lifetime. The collection of behaviors and attitudes that encourage or allow for that staggering statistic to exist is referred to as rape culture.

There are specific challenges that Hispanic women face, which perpetuate rape culture and the rate of sexual assault. For example, while Hispanic women are not assaulted more frequently than non-Hispanic women, they are more likely to be assaulted by a spouse or intimate partner. In the Hispanic culture, a woman’s primary role is traditionally thought to be as the homemaker, a wife and a mother. There is nothing wrong with a woman choosing to devote all of her attention to her family. But the key word here is “choice.” According to the Women of Color Network, 8% of Latinas are sexually assaulted by a spouse or partner during their lifetime. In many of these situations, a woman will not seek help or report the assault, because there is so much pressure on Hispanic women to comply with their husbands, or with men in general.

As awful and inexcusable as sexual assault is, it does happen. So while the many causes that lead to sexual assault should still be addressed, it is also important the after-effects of sexual assault be addressed as well. Resources that offer counseling, medical and legal help to victims of sexual assault are important to one’s recovery. If it weren’t difficult enough for victims to seek out this type of assistance, (giving a testimony of a sexual assault forces the victim to experience the same emotional trauma all over again, a reason why 80% of all sexual assaults go unreported) language barriers pose additional headaches. “Many rape crisis centers do not have a Spanish-speaking advocate available,” says the Office of Victims of Crimes, “so the phrase ‘I’m sorry I don’t speak Spanish’ may be the only response many Spanish-speaking victims receive.” With 41 million native Spanish speakers living in the U.S. today, the demand for bilingual resource centers is great, and the supply of them is small.

The problem of sexual assault and rape culture, especially in Hispanic communities, is present, and goes far beyond this article. And though a solution will not come overnight, countering rape culture can begin with informing each other on the importance of consent, with teaching young men not to rape, instead of teaching young women not to get raped, and with making victims feel brave and supported when they decide to share their experiences with sexual assault, not judged or blamed. This topic of conversation is not pleasant, and it is not comfortable. But if I have learned anything from sitcom episodes about “the talk,” is that healthy, open discourse usually ends in understanding, improvement, and the applause of a live studio audience.

Counting the Votes

821-ivotedstickerIt’s a sentiment that becomes even more popular during election years: “I’m not going to vote.” Those who make this declaration often follow it with such reasoning as, “My vote doesn’t even count.” Now what could be the cause for such a pessimistic attitude? It is a complex and key component of our country’s presidential election process called the electoral college.

How your vote works:

When you vote for a candidate, you are actually casting a vote for a group of electors. Electors are people chosen by the political parties in each state as people who are either loyal to their party or to their party candidate. Each state gets a certain number of electors (the number of senators plus the number of state representatives). These electors make up the electoral college, and are the actual people who vote for the president. When a candidate wins the popular vote (the vote of non-electors, a.k.a. your vote) for a state, then the group of electors for their political party also win. Those electors then get to meet and vote on who they believe the president should be. The candidate who wins the majority of electoral votes becomes president.

Why your vote counts:

The election process can be quite confusing, and many people believe it to be unfair, or undemocratic. Why should the president be chosen by a small group of people who were not even elected by population, but who were appointed by political parties? Our country’s motto is E pluribus unum, “out of many, one.” At what point do the “many” get to have a say in who their leader should be? The good news is that although the outcome of the popular vote is technically not what decides the President, it does have an important role to play. For starters, many states require electors to vote for the candidate who won that state’s popular vote. This ensures that the wishes of the total voting population are not ignored.

There have only been four occurrences in U.S. history when the winner of a presidential election was not the winner of the popular vote. This is out of 56 total presidential elections. This means that the decision of voting citizens is carried through 71% of the time. It may seem crazy for that number to be anything less than 100, but according to the Library of Congress, the founding fathers had their reasons. They believed that “the use of electors would give our country a representative president, while avoiding a corruptible national election.”

Whether you agree with the electoral college voting process or not, whether you agree with the candidates or not, forgoing your vote does not make a statement. All it does is lessen the support for the causes which you believe in. It is especially important for women of color to exercise their right to vote. It was not until the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights act that minority citizens could overcome obstacles like high poll taxes and literacy tests when trying to cast their ballots. Women only won the right to vote less than 100 years ago, with the passage of the 19th amendment in 1919. Countless people throughout history have poured their blood, sweat, and tears into fights for suffrage. That “I Voted” sticker shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Beyond the Ballot:

Voting is probably the most obvious way to make your political voice heard, but activism does not have to be limited to one day every four years. You can stand up for what you believe in by volunteering on the campaign of a politician who advocates for the same causes that you do. You can utilize social media in a positive and respectful way, sharing your opinions or links to articles that inspire you (ahem) with your friends. Activism does not have to wait until you are eighteen years old, either. Volunteer opportunities are available to all, and you can always encourage parents and adult relatives to show up at the polls. Now, if you are reallyinterested in social activism, passionate about politics, then just run for public office yourself! Get that political science degree, girl, and be the change that you want to see in your community!

Are Sororities Right For Me?

Before coming to college I thought sororities were not as inclusive with Latinas. How could I, a black haired, brown eyed, tan skinned girl, who would never be caught wearing anything other than sweat pants and sneakers, fit in with a bunch of sorority girls? Plus, weren’t sororities for girls with bad grades, who liked to drink and party? Yeah, not for me. But as it turns out, sorority and fraternity life is available to people of all backgrounds. Here at the University of Texas at Austin, I got involved with Sigma Lambda Alpha Sorority Incorporated, Señoritas Latinas en Action (SLA), and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Now, for those of you chicas who are soon to be freshman and don’t quite understand what a sorority is, here’s a quick overview as described by Ball State University:

–      A group of women formed by sisterhood and common goals and aspirations;

–      Who make a commitment to each other for life;

–      Who share in their efforts, friendship and knowledge;

–      Who grow, learn, and together make the Greek Letter Organization.

These common goals shape the foundation of a sorority, but each sorority is different with a unique vibe and dynamic.

While attending Adeleante, a university sponsored event aimed to promote Latino based clubs and organizations, I was getting ready to leave when I was stopped in my tracks by loud stomping and chanting. I turned around to find a group of girls “Strolling” on stage, dancing, stepping, and yelling their hearts out as they recited their sororities goals and values. It looked like so much fun and I felt such admiration for what they stood for that I decided to stay a few more minutes. As they stepped off stage, I watched as they walked towards their booth and in a matter of seconds I was standing there, too. While the show they put on was spectacular, I realized that although they seemed like great girls they just didn’t seem like the group for me. So, again, I decided sororities weren’t for me. I was completely done, UNTIL… I was called over by a girl with blue hair, and another dressed like the next CEO of Microsoft, and another who was dressed in gym shorts and a t-shirt, like me! Speaking with them for just a few minutes felt like I had known them all my life. That day I met my sisters, my best friends, and even some of my current roommates. I soon came to find out how Latina sororities are not like white sororities. We are loud and proud of our Latina heritage. We have cookouts, we stroll, we educate others of the different cultures, we participate in events that serve our community, and, when you feel alone and far away from your loved ones, we are a second home away from home.

While being in a sorority was the best choice for some, including myself, it’s not for everyone — and that’s okay! Keep in mind that not every sorority is the same, it’s important to review your options. Pick a sorority that builds you up, and brings out the best of you. When I told my friends I wanted to join a sorority, the first thing they told me was “don’t let them change you.” However, a good sorority WILL change you. They won’t change who you are. They will change how you are for the better. In your areas of strength they will make you confident. In your areas of weakness they will provide a safe place for growth, a hand to hold when you need guidance, and continuous support throughout your journey. You can make your experience a stereotype or you can use it to build a strong foundation for your future. That is every individual’s choice.

If you do join a sorority, you are most likely to meet a group of girls that will leave a mark in your heart for a lifetime. Sisters is not a word taken lightly. And I promise you that even after you graduate. When everyone goes back home and you are miles and miles apart, there will be snapchats and groupme notifications 24/7. There will be random trips to visit each other, and there will be tons of beautiful memories and a bond so strong that can never be forgotten.

And I’m not the only one who thinks so either, Wendy Mejia, Biomedical Engineering graduate from 2015,  says: “SLA prepared me as a leader in the work force. I owe my success in my career so far to my sisterhood; holding office as president developed my leadership and management skills that are essential in a start up environment. Being in a sorority holds many negative stigmas, however, SLA is one of the best choices I made as an undergraduate. Not to mention, I found my best friend through SLA, who I never would have met other wise.”

To find out more about your school’s sororities, visit your Student Affairs office (or website) and go to back-to-school events. Most school’s host welcoming events for greek life (sororities and fraternities) alone.

East Los High and Latinx Visibility in Hollywood

EastLosHighKey

East Los High is a teen drama series that first aired on Hulu in 2013 and has since had three very successful seasons. This show, which is meant to take place at East Los Angeles High School and its surrounding neighborhoods, has been compared to other popular teen dramas such as Degrassi andGlee. However, East Los High is different from these shows in that it focuses on the lives of Latinx teens. In fact, one of the writers and directors, Carlos Portugal, specifies that one of the goals in creating this show was to portray real-life situations that impact teens in east Los Angeles.

In order to accurately represent the Latinx teen community in east Los Angeles, the majority of the show’s cast is Latinx identifying, which is a very rare feature for Hollywood productions. It is so often the case that the majority of TV show and movie cast members in the U.S. are white. In fact, according to a recent study, only about 5% of actors in Hollywood identify as Latinx. Many believe that people of color as a whole have been poorly represented in Hollywood, which is evident in other studies as well, which suggest that Black, Asian, and Native American actors also fill a fairly small percentage of roles in Hollywood.

 

On the subject of Latinx visibility and representation in Hollywood, however, 19-year-old college student, Miriam Myers has this to say: “When I think of Latinx representation… the first thing that comes to mind is telenovelas, or other shows where the females are cast into roles that fall into a common stereotype… So even though there may be some visibility for Latinx people in Hollywood, the issue is that there is a certain type of visibility. Those that are most visible, I would argue, are those that fit the mold.” It is clear that Miriam considers this casting trend in Hollywood a problem because she, a Mexican-American identifying person herself, knows that the Latinx community has so much more to offer.

 

The creators of East Los High take pride in the fact that, once you get past the soap opera-like drama that usually attracts viewers, what you have is a show performed by actors who actually identify as Latinx and who are portraying real-life situations that impact underrepresented teens in East LA. The show covers topics such as immigration rights, financial troubles, ethnic discrimination, sexuality, and also makes use of Spanglish and bilingual dialogue. Miriam believes that it is valuable for young adults to have a true-to-life show such as this. Viewers can watch the show and say, ‘Hey, that character is totally like my mom, brother, friend, or myself!’ You don’t get that very often… [and] the fact that East Los High incorporates bilingual dialogue makes the show seem more believable… the show is giving Spanglish a sort of visibility that hasn’t has such a strong presence…”

It is clear that East Los High is a show aiming to break down barriers in Hollywood, and four seasons in, we can tell that those behind the shows are succeeding. Danielle Vega, one of East Los High’s cast members, while discussing the show’s success in an interview, was quoted to have said, “I think that Hollywood is finally starting to get it!” By saying this, Vega is implying that Hollywood is starting to realize that there is value in accurately representing the diverse cultures in this country. Miriam agrees with Vega, saying, “The fact that there are casts made up mostly of Latinx-identifying actors, or of people of color in general, is a huge step forward… Hollywood has made progress, that’s for sure. But that does not mean that the work is finished.” Working to increase Latinx visibility is certainly key at this point. It isn’t necessarily right that the Latinx community has had to overcome limitations and stereotypes in Hollywood, but it is amazingly empowering to see the Latinx leaders in the TV and movie industries overcome the odds.