Estudiantes Unidos Enters Third Year

Estudiantes Unidos Enters Third Year

Program aimed at helping ‘Latinx’ community continues to evolve

Glendale Community College’s Multicultural and Community Engagement Center entered its third year of the Estudiantes Unidos program this fall semester. The paid program, which launched in the 2016 spring semester, was created mainly to provide leadership opportunities for Latinx students. The term is the gender-neutral alternative to Latino and acknowledges individuals within the demographic who are trans, queer, agender, non-binary, gender non-conforming, or gender fluid. “We felt there was nothing specifically for our Latino students,” said program manager and co-creator Hoover Zariani. “We wanted to have something that was more specific to the population.”

GCC’s Hispanic and Latinx population grew from 20.2 percent in 2010 to 26.7 percent in 2016, according to the school’s Demographics Dashboard online. Zariani and Student Services Technician Nane Kakosian initiated the program to create advocates for current and incoming Latinx students.

“We want to see more of our Latino students in the Associated Student body and we want them to be out and visible and active,” said Kakosian. Estudiantes Unidos works through a three-step, year-long process with a goal in each phase.

Selected students meet with GCC leaders such as administrators and program managers during the first phase.“The goal is to help them navigate through the higher education system,” said Zariani. “When students learn what different leaders’ roles are, they get a sense of new understanding about how the college functions.”

The second step involves nine weeks worth of discussion and planning that culminates in a proposed project beneficial to the student body. Program members decide whether the project is solely for Latinx student use or the general population.

The third and final step is implementing the selected task. Last year’s Estudiantes Unidos members created Career Exploration Day for the general GCC public. Five speakers from different fields – law, psychology, communications, engineering and business – discussed their personal education and career experiences and answered audience questions.

Estudiantes Unidos members worked with the Career Center to contact the professionals, two of which were GCC alumni Former program member and current MCEC student worker Marilyn Favela undertook marketing and advertising for the event.

Favela filled one of 20 positions available within Estudiantes Unidos and described the interview process as fairly simple.

“Nane and Hoover made it a point that it wasn’t necessarily an interview, but more of a way to really to get to know the student and their values,” Favela said.

Zariani suggested diversity was and is important when selecting students. Applicants of different ages, genders, geographical backgrounds, educational experience and personality types are encouraged.

But the group’s diversity didn’t hinder teamwork last spring, according to Favela. “My favorite part of the Estudiantes Unidos process was working with my fellow Latinx peers,” she said. “Although it’s a leadership program, I’ve learned that the best ideas come from teamwork.”

Last year’s funding for Estudiantes Unidos came from the state “through the equity funding that we’ve been getting,” Zariani said. This year’s funding comes from GCC’s Abriendo Caminos Title V Grant.

“[The] Title V grant is for Hispanic-serving organizations and institutions, which means if your campus is at least 25 percent or more Latinx, you can get it,” said Zariani.