MASS Office provides Hispanic community new way to connect

Story by Ricardo Martin

Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Roman

At the beginning of the semester, Hispanic students didn’t have many places to connect with other members within their community.

With the help of the Multicultural Academic Student Services (MASS), Julio Velasco, a Central Michigan University graduate, and the current graduate assistant at the MASS office, was able to create a space for Hispanic students to socialize and build a strong community. He said many students wanted a place to hang out and felt there weren’t many options.

“It’s a space for students to come in to find people within their community,” Velasco said. “We want to build a community and spread awareness of the culture.”

Velasco said when the idea for La Gente was first conceived, it was intended to be a biweekly, face-to-face event. Anyone would be allowed to come join and socialize with other students and faculty.

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging on, La Gente was shifted to an online format. Velasco said it has been a challenge to engage students due to screen fatigue.

“No one wants to hop on a screen and stare at each other.” Velasco said.

Though it is now online, La Gente is still able to serve its original purpose. Velasco said students can come hang out and participate in various activities, which he hopes will make La Gente more attractive to students.

“I want people to feel more connected and to have a place to call home away from home.” Velasco said.

What makes La Gente so different from other student organizations is it doesn’t have a true structure. Velasco said there’s no E-board or advisor overseeing La Gente. It is simply a place for Latinx students and allies to come together and get to know one another.

“I’m of the mindset having too many student organizations is a bad thing because it spreads people out.” Velasco said.

With La Gente, Velasco said he wants to build a stronger sense of community among Latinx students, especially considering how small the Hispanic population is at CMU. He said he thinks more students will start showing up to La Gente events as the semester progresses.

“Our goal is to have as many as people as possible come in and enjoy it.” Velasco said.

As for his career, Velasco said he wants to go into student affairs to work with marginalized students and connect them to the resources they need. With La Gente, he feels like he is achieving that every Thursday night.

“We just want to bring people together and make them feel welcome.” Velasco said.

La Gente meets every Thursday at 8 p.m. via WebEx. For more information, visit the MASS office’s social media pages.

Twitter: @MASS_CMU

Instagram: @mass_cmu