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NIU Today | Latinx students enjoy abundant resources on campus

College students of all backgrounds often need help with even the most basic human needs, including food, housing, and mental health.

For those undocumented who worry about disclosing their immigrant status as they search for help, Sandy Lopez has a message.

Sandy Lopez, Unregistered Student Support Coordinator

Lopez, coordinator of support for undocumented students at the NIU’s Office of Academic Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion, says.

“What I say to the students is, ‘With all you must worry about up to this moment, give that to us – to me; To my staff — and let’s focus on advocacy, on programming, on support, on bridging the equality gaps you feel, so you can really be husky and enjoy being a college student. “

Founded in 2018, Lopez’s office serves undocumented students from 26 different countries, including some in Africa, Asia and Europe.

However, many of her clients are already Latinos, and they are part of a group of students who have many invaluable help on the NIU campus.

NIU’s Latin Resource Center provides programs and services that include Adela de la Torre Latino Honor Society (ATLHS), De Mujer a Mujer (DMM), Mentoring and Participation through Academic Success (METAS), Support Opportunities for Latinos (SOL), Vanguardia Afirmativa de [email protected] Unidos (VALU), Women Empowerment Conference, Latin Chill, Latin Heritage Month, Latin Dinner, Latin Graduation.

The Center for Latin American and Latin American Studies, meanwhile, is an interdisciplinary academic research unit, comprising the minor in Latin American and Latin American Studies, the Graduate Certificate in Latin American Studies, research projects, lectures, discussions, workshops and community outreach activities.

Christine Abreu, Director of the Center for Latin American and Latin American Studies

“The academic and cultural programs that we host are really important to students,” says Christina Abreu, director of the Center for Latin American and Latin American Studies.

I remember when I was a college student, I went to ‘that one event’ and said, ‘Oh, cool, that makes me think differently,’ or ‘Wow, I didn’t know I could do that,’ or, ‘I didn’t know I could put up Those kind of questions,” she adds, “and these are the kinds of events we love to host. We would like to bring in speakers who will challenge the way students, and sometimes faculty and administrators, think about things.”

The two centers share a building on Garden Road with facilities such as a computer lab, smart classroom, library, study areas, lounge, administration offices and a lobby suitable for art galleries.

“Our motto at the Latin Resource Center is that we are at home away from home,” says Director Luis Santos-Rivas. “We create a sense of belonging for our students. We make all these programs and these events to make the students feel that we are here for them.”

It also raises the status of the center and thus its influence.

Luis Santos Rivas, Director of the Latin Resource Center

“There are some students who move around — they just come to class, go home or go to work — and when I send out a graduation invitation to a Latino, for example, that’s when they get to know us,” Santos Rivas says.

“We are working hard to break that gap. What I have been doing for the past two or three years is sending a welcome email to incoming new students and transfer students every year and every semester, working actively on our social media, and programming according to generations.”

Abreu takes pride in its minors and is open to all students.

“If you are a Latino student, our minor offers you the opportunity to study the history and culture of Latin societies, often from the perspective of Latin writers and scholars. This is often a history that is not covered in high school curricula, and so this is an opportunity for you to gain a deeper understanding of how Latin societies have formed in United State.

She adds that non-Hispanic students can also benefit from a minor.

“Depending on your professional ambitions, this minor will also allow you to demonstrate to your employer that you have geographic experience in Latin America, and that you also have a cultural competence that will allow you to better understand the Latinx communities you will work with and serve,” she says.

Furthermore, Abreu says, the center’s Latin Oral History project allows undergraduates to connect face-to-face with faculty mentors to conduct research.

“They document and make more meaningful the stories and experiences of Latinos in northern Illinois, often meeting individuals who have had an impact on their personal lives and in their communities,” she says. “The other important part about this research experiment is that we have been working very hard in the past few years to make sure that these research experiments Pay Research experiences. “

Some graduates told her that this “changed their lives,” and turned the impact of their explorations into successful careers as lawyers, teachers, museum workers and more.

“It really allowed them to learn more about their communities, and it allowed them, in some cases, to meet family members who kind of knew their stories in the excerpts but didn’t know to a great extent — some of the trauma associated with being an immigrant, in some cases being undocumented during the excerpt,” Abreu says. Work in factories or work in healthcare.”

Families are an integral part of Lopez’s business.

Because of their undocumented status, many feared leaving their students at DeKalb. They wonder if NIU is a safe, welcoming, inclusive place.

“Not only do we ensure families that their students will have support while they are here, but we also assure families that we truly celebrate their diversity and the cultural wealth they bring to our campus,” Lopez says.

“Fortunately, here at NIU, I always state that we have a student friendly campus for undocumented students. because of unenrolled students,” she adds, “by the education they receive through Allied training and through the boards they continue on.” They offer what we call ‘counter-stories’ to challenge myths and stereotypes about unenrolled students, and give their life experiences to humanize the issue.”

These conversations have really helped change the way this university, this community, and the city of DeKalb view our unenrolled students, she says.

Every semester, DeKalb residents gather together to donate books, school supplies, scholarship dollars, and even gift cards, Lopez says. Students use these for everything from buying new eyeglasses to paying for DACA renewals.

Meanwhile, students find intangible forms of support from Lopez, her assistant principal and their team of graduate assistants and working students.

DREAM Action NIU, for example, is a student-led organization that works to raise awareness about the situations that undocumented students face in the United States and especially on campus.

Led by Lopez, members of DREAM Action NIU believe that higher education is a fundamental human right for all, regardless of citizenship status.

She is also considering the advocacy she and former students made that led to state legislation creating the Illinois Student Retention and Equity (RISE) Act and the Alternative Application for Illinois Financial Aid. Unregistered students are allowed access to Cash Scholarship Program grants and, now, Huskie Pledge Financial Aid.

Even Lopez’s office location, in the Campus Life building, comes in handy.

Worried about a job interview or training? Professional services around the corner. Feeling stressed? Counseling and counseling services are at this level as well. Struggling with coursework? Visit the nearby Academic Advising Center.

Do you suffer from food insecurity? The Student Help Center is located in the basement. Moving to campus and need a place to hang out or study? Passenger and off-campus programs are also located on the first floor.

Lopez’s support community states that people do not have to bond to understand other people’s struggles to exercise empathy.

“I knew one student who was so exhausted that she got hung up. She wasn’t responding. She wasn’t doing what she should have done. She wasn’t following up via email,” Lopez says. “I met her and her mother, and I said, ‘I know you’re frustrated. I know you’re overwhelmed with it.’ And she said, ‘I’m just so scared.’ I don’t know what to do. “

Lopez had the answer.

I said, ‘But that’s what I’m here for, isn’t it? “I keep forgetting that I’m not alone,” she says.

“And they’re not alone. They have a community here. They have an office. And they have us, and we build those relationships.” “I think there is a lot A native take care of someone. If we can honestly take care of Huskies, and they know they have someone to go to – and hopefully more than one, right? – Then I think that their ability to continue here will increase exponentially.”

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