Panel empowers students’ educational dreams

La Raza classes help Latino students find identity, direction

Guest speaker Katherine Garcia shares how La Raza studies helped her to pursue her passion in theater during the La Raza Studies student panel.

By Yesenia Melara, Social Media Editor

Through La Raza studies, students have transformed themselves into educational leaders, become knowledgeable about their people and culture, gained self-confidence and realized a renewed sense of empowerment.

During the second annual La Raza studies Inter-generational Panel on College Success, six guest speakers talked about how through La Raza studies, they were able to achieve their educational goals.

The discussion-style event was held in GE-225 on May 4.

The speakers were transfer students, graduate students and recent college graduates. For most of these students, the stories they shared were of their own struggles. Some spoke about living in non-supportive Latino families, rough life experiences or the struggles they faced once they transferred to four-year universities.

Although for these students and those who are now professionals, they said that they felt encouraged and a sense of belonging when they were introduced to La Raza courses.

Guest speaker Katherine Garcia, who is currently attending UC Berkeley, said through ethnic studies she was able to pursue her passion in theater.

Garcia said after her high school graduation she felt lost. She did not know what do, so she enrolled at Contra Costa College.

She took theater courses, culinary courses and then went back to taking theater. But through her journey she kept dropping her classes.

It wasn’t until she took a La Raza course that she felt encouraged to pursue her passion.

“I started learning about my history and culture,” Garcia said. “Because of La Raza studies I was able to connect my culture to my love of theater.

“Our (Latino) stories matter, but they are not being heard. So through my passion for theater I’m able to share all of these unheard stories,” she said.

Like Garcia, guest speaker and transfer student Alejandro Gonzalez found his identity and encouragement through ethnic studies at UC Berkeley.

“After graduating from Richmond High School, I transferred to a state (university), but later decided to attend CCC because I wasn’t prepared enough to attend a state school,” Gonzalez said

When Gonzalez enrolled at CCC, one of the first classes he took was in La Raza studies.

“La Raza gave me a sense of identity. In a way, it made me feel empowered,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez also advised students to make their voices heard. 

“Allow your voice to be heard. (In years past), most of us (Latinos) didn’t have the privilege to pursue higher education. Now we can, so make your voice count,” he said.

Maggie Elmore, a Ph.D. candidate in the department of history at UC Berkeley, advised students to ask questions and ask for help.

“People at a UC sound smart, but most of the time they are feeling lost. So don’t be afraid to ask any questions in class,” Elmore said.

Guest speaker Julio Magana, a Cal graduate and professional, advised students to pursue all of their passions.

“It’s OK to have multiple passions. You don’t have to pick just one,” he said.