What started out as three students creating a project for a public advocacy class has resulted in the relaunching of Ferris’ Latin@ Alumni Association.
The class project was a semester long assignment in which students had to focus on a topic about advocacy. The three students chose to relaunch the association for not only the class, but for the campus as well.
Communication studies and Spanish senior Berenise Alvarez was one of the students that assisted with the relaunch. She is also the secretary of Sigma Lambda Gamma Sorority Inc., Ferris’ only multicultural sorority. She believes the relaunch will greatly impact other Latino students on campus.
“The Latin@ Alumni Association will help bridge that gap between undergrad and the transition post-graduation,” Alvarez said. “This association will help connect Ferris Latin@ alumni together so they can serve as mentors for the undergrad students.”
After the project was finished, Sigma Lambda Gamma Sorority Inc. hosted a panel with the Latin@ Alumni Association’s board members to introduce themselves, share personal experiences as undergraduate students and teach attendees how to network.
As all panelists were Ferris alumni, each spoke about their experience with transitioning out of college into the real world. Latin@ Alumni Association Co-Chair Paola Mendivil contributed her story about growing up in Mexico, moving to Grand Rapids and starting a life there.
“Once I graduated in 2017, I had that clear goal of helping other entrepreneurs to their dreams with a small business,” Mendivil said.
Latin@ Alumni Association Secretary Daniel Rivera struggled with feeling isolated and figuring out what to do with his time after he graduated.
“It is tough, especially if you identify as a first [generation] student [because] then you become a first [generation] professional,” Rivera said. “I struggled a lot with being isolated and figuring out how [to] occupy my time because it does get better in terms of stress.”
Event Advisor Veronica Mascorro was an involved undergraduate student as an interim writer for the Torch. She believed this gave her many opportunities to go to events and meet new people. She also worked at the writing center.
She started applying to graduate schools that had programs that focused on Hispanic history, which is her passion.
When she was accepted into Western Michigan University, she was required to take an additional year to prove to them that she proficiently spoke Spanish.
“It was off-putting because I’ve been speaking Spanish my whole life,” Mascorro said. “It felt like they were saying to me, ‘You’re not Hispanic enough. You’re not Mexican enough.’”
Chair board member Leonardo Almanza saw “unfairness” on campus with the lack of Latino representation during his undergraduate years. The Black Lives Matter movement and the death of George Floyd encouraged him to advocate for minorities.
“I really realized, and I based this off what [Gov.] Gretchen Whitmer said, ‘Be the voice for others that are still trying to find their own,’” Almanza said. “People don’t know how to speak up, and that’s okay. I know I can, so let me use that for positive impact.”
If you would like to contact the Latin@ Alumni Association or discuss networking practices, please visit the Center for Latin@ Studies for more information.