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Latina student leaders push UC to provide more resources for Latino students

(Katelyn Dang/Illustrations director)

By Chelsea Westman

Oct. 7, 2021 8:00 a.m.

Editor’s note: Daily Bruin used Latino, Latina, Latinx and Hispanic in this article according to sources’ preferences.

University of California Latina student leaders are pushing for more representation and resources for Latino students across the UC system.

In 2021, Latino students were the largest group of students admitted for the second year in a row among UC in-state applicants, making up 37% of the 84,223 seats offered for freshmen, according to the Los Angeles Times. In addition, there was a 10% increase in Chicano/Latino transfer applicants for fall 2021 admissions, according to UCLA Newsroom.

However, all UC campuses must work on retaining their Latino students and ensuring they have the resources to succeed, said Hailey Valles, the General representative 1 for the Undergraduate Students Association Council. She added all UC schools should support student leaders in advocating for their communities.

While it is exciting to see representation during Hispanic Heritage Month, Valles said, it can feel performative when an institution fails to support its Latinx students.

“We can continue to celebrate people in this community by offering and ensuring that their students are being able to retain and are given the resources to succeed in higher education,” Valles said. “I think that’s the kind of commitment that the university owes Latinx students across campus.”

Breeze Velazquez, the USAC president, said a part of her platform is to uplift the needs and intersectionalities of underrepresented students while increasing their access to university resources.

“I think that UCLA overall could do a much better job of supporting its students,” Velazquez said. “Especially students of color because I often think about it – a lot of the times you’re able to attend this university but then you don’t have your resources to sustain you at the university.”

Juliana Martinez Hernandez, the UC Davis internal vice president, said she hopes to make the Associated Students at Davis more accessible for students. She said some of her primary goals as IVP are creating a community outreach task force, having a more diverse student government and making college more accessible and affordable for low-income and first-generation students.

“My parents immigrated here from Mexico in the ’80s, and so for me, accessibility and affordability is really important,” Hernandez said. “That’s why I think having something like a survey or just advocating for more transparency was all contributing to make a university more accessible for students like me who come from historically underrepresented backgrounds.”

Hernandez said she aims to collaborate with committees to focus on advocacy projects while creating and promoting more services for students.

She added she hopes the UC can create more undergraduate student positions on the UC Board of Regents as a first step to increase Latino student representation.

“I think part of that is just our responsibility – being an inclusive environment where students who have multiple backgrounds with diverse perspectives can come in and join student government,” Hernandez said.

Alondra Martinez, the vice president of sustainability at UC Riverside, said the large Latino community at UCR helped her navigate her position and wants to make changes for students through outreach.

​​”Coming from UCR, I feel like there is a lot of sense of community, so I just hope that other UC campuses also have those types of communities and resources for Hispanic/Latino students because it’s really important,” Martinez said. “I just hope that they keep implementing and they keep pushing to get those resources to them.”

Student leaders also said their identity influenced how they view their leadership positions and college experiences.

Velazquez said resilience and tenacity are things she thinks her culture and herself, as a result, strongly emphasize.

“My grandpa always dreamt that one of his grandchildren would go to college and I am fulfilling that dream,” Velazquez said. “I never met my grandpa but just having my mom tell me that has got to be one of those moments in my life I’ll remember forever and will continue to remind me to just keep going and striving for the future of our community.”

Valles said the intersections of her identity – as a Latina and first-generation student – play a large role in how she develops different platforms. She added that coming to UCLA has given her the opportunity to better understand what it means to be Latinx in higher education and in medicine.

Martinez said when it comes to Hispanic Heritage Month, she thinks about the parents in the Latinx community and the struggles they go through to get their children in college.

“A lot of Hispanics and Latinos, like our parents, work extremely hard just to get us here, and during this month you really reflect and you’re like, ‘OK, I’m getting my degree for myself, but it’s also in a sense for them,’” Martinez said. “This month, to me personally, it’s just for them. Everything that I’m doing is for my family or my parents and what they did for me.”

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Chelsea Westman
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