Micaela Ricaforte, guest writer
On Feb. 2, SCRD held their first meeting for Hermanos en Cristo, a group in which Latino males on campus are encouraged to meet to support and network with other Latino males in the APU community.
SCRD Executive Director Aaron Hinojosa spoke to about 20 students, faculty and staff members saying that there was a need for support and encouragement for Latino males on campus.
“The basis of tonight is to gain vision for students here to see that there are Latino men on faculty and staff that have gone before you who have done these things before,” Hinojosa said. “That’s what this is about. It’s the idea that we can be a support system for our male Latino students here at APU.”
Several APU faculty and staff members shared their stories with the students in attendance. In sharing their stories, they hoped to encourage students to continue on in their academic success and the accomplishment of their dreams and aspirations.
Executive Director for the Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence (CDEIE), Richard S. Martinez, Ed.D. recalled the sacrifices his family made for him.
“My father and brother worked in vineyards in Rancho Cucamonga and his mother worked in food service,” Martinez said. “I’m standing here because of other people. I need to remember that and I need to be able to remember groups like this and to give it back. I know what it’s like to go to school, hold a job, and juggle your studies.”
Hinojosa said that the purpose of the faculty and staff at Hermanos en Cristo is to be a resource for both academics and networking for the future, whether that includes career opportunities or graduate school.
“When I was in school, I was afraid to ask questions because I felt like I didn’t belong,” Director of Liberal Studies Paul Flores, Ph.D. said. “I tried to figure it out by myself for 4 years. Part of the privilege I have here now is to help students and answer questions.”
In addition to faculty and staff, graduate students are also stepping in to assist with this organization.
Luis Jacobo, a first-year graduate student in the College Counseling and Student Development program, wants to help students of color go into higher education and to help them graduate. As a first-generation college student, he has had some difficulty navigating his first few years of college and can relate to the challenges faced by these students.
“When I first started as a student, I was a commuter, so I would just drive to school and then come back home,” Jacobo said. “I didn’t know about the resources available to you to help you navigate higher education. I would encourage students here to take advantage of those [resources]. The reason I’m here today is partly because I finally took advantage of them in my junior and senior year.”
Jacobo also said that he spent much of his time talking with professors and building relationships through networking with different kinds of people. To his surprise, this helped in his experience and getting better grades.
“I had to put in work to get the outcome I wanted, but it was worth it in the end,” Jacobo said. “Those professors and those mentors are part of the reason I am here.”
Freshman Business major Andrew Ojeda said he was “tremendously encouraged” by the first meeting. He is also involved in the Multi-Ethnic Leadership program that works closely with the SCRD office.
“I know that we’re out there, but it can be hard to see us on campus,” Ojeda said. “Having these gatherings, it brings familiarity. [Hermanos en Cristo] definitely lives up to the name, brothers in Christ.”
The Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence has planned a wide variety of events this semester where APU community members can continue to share their experiences.
“We want to provide academic and networking support, but we also want to be able to push each other as family does, to encourage each other, and help each other thrive as a unit, and thrive as individuals as well,” Ojeda said.
Their next event will be on the topic of supporting under-represented first generation students on Wednesday, Feb. 8 from 3:30-5 p.m. in Wilden Hall, Room 119. For more information, please visit their website at apu.edu/cdeie.