It’s 5 p.m. in the Commons and the aroma of fresh tortillas, arroz, and frijoles infuse the air. The faces, many of which are new to the LBCC cafeteria, seem right at home as they mingle, laugh, and share a meal with neighboring tables surrounded by OSU and high school students and their families.
On Monday, April 17, LBCC hosted their third annual “Noche,” a college night for Latino families and students, which ran from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Calapooia Center. Noche included an arrangement of hispanic inspired food, a variety of booths hosted by different community partnerships and organizations that may be offering services to the families and or communities, and five 25 minute seminar sessions specifically reaching out to students. The students had a of choice which two out the five sessions they wanted to attend during the hour.
Noche brought out high school students and their families from surrounding areas, as well as current enrolled Latino OSU students who are apart of CAMP (College Assistance Migrant Program) with hopes that they could learn more about programs, such as the OSU degree partnership program that is paired with LB.
Maria Solis-Camarena, the Latino Outreach & Retention Specialist here at LBCC, assisted with the planning of the event along side LB’s Admissions office and Javier Cervantes, Director of Department of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Solis-Camarena started the event by welcoming the students and their families and thanking them for attending.
The idea of Noche is that this event will bring in more Latino college students from the surrounding areas to attend LB and also provide vital academic information and resources to high school and future students.
“Our goal is always to get the Latino community involved with LBCC. We are trying to make LBCC the Latino students’ first preference for college, so this event is one of those steps to making that effort a possibility and happen for the community,” said Solis-Camarena.
Not only does Solis-Camarena work in the Diversity Achievement Center (DAC) on LB’s campus, she also spreads the word of what LB has to offer by partnering with neighboring high schools and middle schools, with the goal of drawing future students to LB.
“I go out to South Albany High School three days out of the week. In addition to that, I help facilitate after school events and activities there all with Latino students [and] Latino families, both bilingual (English and Spanish),” said Solis-Camarena, “We’re definitely trying to get more [local high schools], so right now the partnerships I have established are with Corvallis High School, Lebanon High School, North Albany Middle School, and Philomath High School, and Central High School.”
Although Noche is mainly geared toward providing resources and information to future students and their families, many current Latino students play a vital role in ensuring that this yearly event is a success.
“We’re having current students volunteer and help out with the event anyway that they can, whether it’s ushering people around or having childcare available for the families here in the Diversity Achievement Center,” said Solis-Camarena.
Current Latina Student Leader at the DAC Jessica Sandoval volunteered her time so she could welcome both parents and students to Noche.
“I think it’s super beneficial because I definitely wish I had an event like this to attend when I was in high school to see that I’m not alone in my desires to continue to go to school and see that there was a community around me that could have been there to support me with questions and just overall career support,” said Sandoval. “I feel like in high school I had a lot of questions, so if I would have attended one of these, I think a lot of those would have been answered and I would have considered going to college a lot sooner.”
Sandoval is currently majoring in Criminal Justice, and is an active member of LB’s Student Leadership Council.
Javier Cervantes assisted Solis-Camarena with welcoming and translating between resource tables, families, and faculty. As Director, Cervantes promotes and stands behind an inclusive college experience for current and future Latino students in the community.
“Demographics is destiny,” said Cervantes. “Our [latinos] demographics in Albany for example, we’re over 12 percent of the population, and yet we’re not 12 percent of the representation here in our student body of Latinos.
“So, the fact of the matter is that we need to have that representation. Sometimes you need someone to push that, and that’s me. I want my population to have a transformative experience in education. I had a community college experience that changed my life; I want other students to have that exact experience to help them change their life.”
Cervantes’ goal for Noche is not to exclude any student, but open the door for all students with emphasis on the Latino community.
“It’s for all students, it’s going to be bilingual programs, so anybody can come but it’s going to be primarily focused on Latinos. We don’t exclude anybody. We particularly encourage families to come,” said Cervantes.
“What we’re really trying to say is that we want to make LBCC the college of choice for Latino students, all students for that matter, but in particular Latino students,” he said. “We want to make them have an experience here that they see LBCC is the first place [they] want to go and then [they] can go to OSU, UO, [they] can go get a job, [they] can get a certificate of some sort, an Oregon transfer degree. The idea is that they start their schooling here first, that’s what we want.”
Cervantes and his team in the DAC have worked hard to create an inclusive and welcoming community of students and staff – of all kinds.
“We’re [LBCC] a great place to study, a great place to find work, [and] community connections. That’s our idea, we want to be a college of choice. That’s what LBCC and the community college is supposed to be – a place where you make connections with people – they’re not just titles they’re actual people here,” said Cervantes.
Among the community partnerships that participated in Noche included detailing informational sessions on: Oregon Promise, admissions, the OSU degree-partnership program, Career and Technical Education program that’s offered here at LBCC, and Financial aid resources.
For more information about how you can get involved with diversity and inclusion at LBCC, or for further academic information about any of the programs listed, contact Javier Cervantes at email@example.com.
Story and Photo by Samantha Guy