Bianca Maldonado Ramirez ’16 came to Pacific University, in part, to experience college while staying close to her Beaverton, Ore., home.
But even a few miles away, she found her freshman year somewhat lonely.
“I did miss my parents a lot,” she said. She was used to being surrounded by a large family and spending her weekends with extended family.
She and Jessica Mendez ‘16 quickly became friends, bonding over a shared culture and a desire for “home.”
“We tended to group together because we had the same cultural background and values,” Ramirez said. “We felt there needed to be something on campus that felt like home. Students needed a support system, a space that felt comfortable.”
The pair teamed up with psychology professor Alyson Burns-Glover to create the Hispanic Heritage Student Association.
The group is just getting started, but it’s designed to provide a community of support for students of Hispanic ethnicity, as well as to help prospective and current students navigate challenges unique to their culture.
For example, said Ramirez, whose parents are first-generation in the United States, “For a lot of Latinos, parents want you to go to school, but you shouldn’t go too far, because of family obligations.
“They expect a lot from you. They don’t understand the college experience.”
The club wants to help students navigate the pressures of school and family life by providing parent nights for incoming students’ families, including information in their native language.
They also plan to do some volunteer work with local youth, such as helping with a workshop for Latinas on preventing teen motherhood.
Mostly, though, they want to create an environment on campus where Hispanic students can come together. The club meets the second Tuesday of each month.
“When you’re on a sports team, you fit in because you have each other,” Ramirez said. “With this club, you’ll know people in class, see people and say hi to them. You have a family on campus.”
“We share community values,” added Mendez. “I feel like it just gives comfort and support.”