At the Latinx Summit, junior Kaeleigh Valverde, sophomore Esme Bruce-Romo, freshmen Gabi Alvarado and Yanele Ledesma, juniors Austin Talamantes and Alexa Mathisen, freshman Alan Gallardo and junior Maryjane Garcia (seated from left to right) dine with students from Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose.

(Photo used by permission of Adolfo Mercado)
At the LatinX Summit, junior Kaeleigh Valverde, sophomore Esme Bruce-Romo, freshmen Gabi Alvarado and Yanele Ledesma, juniors Austin Talamantes and Alexa Mathisen, freshman Alan Gallardo and junior Maryjane Garcia (seated from left to right) dine with students from Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose.

On April 20, junior Alexa Mathisen and freshman Gabi Alvarado announced at morning meeting that they would be starting another club.

The crowd groaned, but immediately perked up when they said that there would be food.

The LatinX Student Union club had its first meeting that day. After attending the 2016 Bi-Annual LatinX (meaning Latino or Latina) Summit in San Francisco, a group of students has formed a club to educate others about diversity and share opinions.

“We were surprised how many schools had more diversity organizations and minority student unions,” Mathisen said.

“We felt like SCDS needed one.”

According to her and Alvarado, the club is open to everyone, no matter the ethnicity, as a place to learn and share opinions.

The club wants to introduce cultural awareness of Latin America and Spain, as well to bring speakers to discuss sensitive and controversial issues such as drug cartels and illegal immigration.

Alvarado also intends to discuss “microaggressions.”

“For example, people saying you’re not Latino/Latina or people calling immigrants ‘illegal aliens,’” she said.

“We need to be educated about the terms we use.”

“We also plan to talk about gender roles in Latino communities and the culture of Cinco de Mayo in America versus Latin America,” Mathisen said.

Around 15 students attended the first club meeting, where they discussed club goals and decided officer positions.

The club intends to meet every Wednesday and announce what topic will be discussed that day during morning meeting.

“We also want to make community service part of our club, so we are going to raise money for the earthquake in Ecuador,” Mathisen said.

The LatinX Student Union plans to make a presentation at leadership lunch on April 29 to discuss what they learned from the keynote speakers, at the breakout sessions, and from working with others from prestigious schools.

Ten high-school students –  accompanied by Breakthrough director Adolfo Mercado, high-school Spanish teacher Patricia Portillo and parent Scarlett Talamantes – attended the summit in San Francisco, March 10-12.

Spanish teacher Patricia Portillo and Breakthrough director Adolfo Mercado meet with a fellow student adviser.

(Photo used by permission of Mercado)
Spanish teacher Patricia Portillo and Breakthrough director Adolfo Mercado meet with a fellow student adviser.

SCDS, which became a member of People of Color in Independent Schools (POSIS), was invited to the summit at St. Ignatius College Preparatory, along with other POCIS schools. SCDS has attended the summit once before.

There were three keynote speakers and many breakout sessions, which consisted of discussion groups with students from other schools.

In junior Austin Talamantes’s session, the discussion was about Latino youth in privileged spaces and art activism.

Other students in his group shared how they felt like outsiders in a primarily white community at their school and also what it felt like to go home to a Latino community and be treated like an outsider because they were going to a primarily white school.

Talamantes said he enjoyed this session and that it gave him a new lens through which to view SCDS and colleges.

“I want schools to make Latino students feel welcome and be able to bridge the cultural gap,” he said.

Talamantes said he also enjoyed his art activism session, where the group discussed how art can be a tool for illustrating social issues.

Talamantes, who has already addressed social issues in his art, was inspired to make more pieces like that, he said.

“I just finished a piece with all races and genders because the face of LGBT community is usually a white cisgendered gay man,” he said.

“We can’t all be represented by that.”

Junior Maryjane Garcia, who said she also found the convention very informative, attended a session about the gentrification of San Francisco’s neighborhoods.

Garcia said that this was a new concept to her because she has never lived in San Francisco; she learned how family-owned businesses were being put out of business by large companies.

At the session she discussed her experience talking with her Latino friends about education.

“You’re not supposed to be smart,” she said.

“There’s a stigma where you can’t try to achieve a higher education without being white. They say you’re just trying to be white.

“When I hang out with my Latino friends, they say I’m white because I want to pursue a higher education, and I just don’t see it this way.”

Mercado said the summit was centered around students, but there were also some sessions for the teachers.

Portillo went to a session that discussed social values in the context of how they are prioritized according to needs. Each social value, such as family, happiness or power, had a price for “purchase.” The group was then given $50 and had to decide which values they would “buy.”

Portillo thought that this was a good exercise to see that people have different values.

She said that the summit was beneficial to the students.

“Kids got to spend time with other people with similar experiences,” she said. “They realized that they face the same challenges as others, and they know they’re not alone.”

Mercado said that SCDS will be attending the LatinX Youth Summit again in two years.

—By Nicole Wolkov

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