Walking around a college campus can be intimidating.
“It's a very white college, and I was very nervous because I was the only Latina in my classes,” said Griselda Medrano, a Salvadoran American Agriculture Science student at Cal Poly.
Medrano said it became an opportunity to help push for a safe space.
“It really took me going out of my way to find people, and that’s something we’re hoping La Casa takes that out that students don’t have to gout out of their way to find community,” said Medrano.
For years, there were many conversations about what it would look like and where it would be located.
“With the placement of it, it didn’t feel like there was much intentionality, and that’s been our mission making sure everything we do is intentional for the students, that they feel safe and welcome,” said Medrano.
The day is finally here, the Latinx Center for Academic Success and Achievement or La Casa is meant to be a home away from home.
“We have new furniture, comfortable, colorful, vibrant furniture, we have workstations, printing accessibility here for our students, new monitors here in the space, to having a full size fridge to having artwork that represents a number of Latinx communities,” described Daisy Paniagua-Uribe, the Cal Poly Latinx Initiatives Coordinator.
Cal Poly hosted a ceremony Thursday with live mariachi music and food. Cal Poly alumni were in the audience to witness this historic moment.
“There were excellent resources at the time, the multi-cultural center and the minorities in culture program but a center like this would’ve been awesome to have,” said Victor Rey, who graduated from Cal Poly in 2003.
This center is an opportunity to meet the growing Latinx population across the country.
“Our hope is that with the Latinx center, with La Casa that students who are coming to Cal Poly that they will see that there is a space dedicated just to them, that they feel welcome, that they feel supported from matriculation through graduation,” said Diana Ortiz Giron, who is the Cal Poly Dir. For Student Diversity and Belonging.
Cal Poly numbers show that in 2010, 12% of students self-identified as Hispanic or Latino. In 2021, that number went up to 19%, and in the 2022 fall quarter that number jumped to 24%.
“This year’s class at Cal Poly is the most diverse and highest scholastic standing in our history,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong.
Cal Poly is hoping La Casa can draw more students for it to become a Hispanic Serving Institution or HSI.
“The federal government defines a Hispanic Serving institution as 25% or more Hispanic/Latino students, there are other guidelines as well, but we are well on our way in the next few years we’ll become what is referred to as an HSI,” explained Armstrong.
Medrano is graduating in 2024, but she has some words for incoming Latinx students and parents.
“There is still a lot of work that’s going to need to be done at Cal Poly,” said Medrano. “This is only a stepping stone, it’s just the beginning your students, your children are going to come here, they might feel scared but just know that there are people who do genuinely care for them and they want them to succeed.”
La Casa is not only a place to get homework done. The resource center will be hosting cultural events, guest speakers and discussions to address representation issues within the Latinx community.
Other plans include organizing field trips for students and collaborating with existing organizations for next year’s Latinx/Chicanx commencement ceremony.