Empowered Latino Union: Supporting Latino students at CMU

ELU. Three letters, one movement.

Empowered Latino Union is a new organization at Central Michigan University that seeks to unite and empower the Latino population and its allies.

“I want people to know that ELU is an organization full of well-educated leaders that are trying to bring a positive change to this campus,​” said Saginaw sophomore and ELU president David Juarez.

The idea to revive the Latino cultural organization came from the Multicultural Academic Student Services office last spring when D’Wayne Jenkins, assistant director of cultural programming, approached Midland senior Maricella Reyes and Saginaw sophomore Rano Watt-Kelley about the need for a united Latino force on campus.

“As I looked around and saw some of the backgrounds that were represented, I saw that the hispanic population was lacking representation,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins planted the seed in the minds of Reyes and Watt-Kelley to develop them as leaders and assist with retention and recruitment of hispanic students.

While Hispanic Heritage month is celebrated annually at CMU, Jenkins felt there needs to be a place for these students to celebrate their culture for more than one month out of the year.

“Everyone knows that the hispanic population is growing at a rapid rate, and in order for us to compete with other institutions, we need to have something in place that attracts those students,” Jenkins said.

Since MASS has recognized that some Hispanic students feel alone during their time at CMU, they have made it their mission to advertise this organization and the benefits it brings its members.

“I believe that ELU is important to this specific campus because the number of Hispanic students applying and attending this university is dwindling,” Juarez said. “I believe less and less Hispanic students want to go here because of the lack of a Hispanic population. With this new organization here, hopefully these students will see that there is still a stronger presence (than they thought).”

Other than their inclusion, networking and extensive resources, the group is equipped with a notable advisor to help lead them to succeed.

As one of CMU’s most well-known employees, who serves as a campus police officer, Laura Martinez (formerly Rico) oversees all things ELU.

Membership in ELU is open to anyone who has an interest in the Latino culture. The group aims to to include everyone, however their main target is to support the Latino student population. Reyes hopes that through ELU, the Latino population can be more visible on campus while sharing and educating others on the various cultures within it.

“We just really want them to get more out of the college experience than just going to class. We need to get involved and we need to be seen on campus as Latino and Hispanic,” Reyes said. 

The revival of the Latino organization has been met with much support by faculty and the CMU Latino alumni group. Through these connections, this student group has been able to find resources for programming and networking.

“We’re trying to find people who are interested in uniting as a Latino or Hispanic front.” Reyes said. “We are here. Latinos are here and represented and you are not alone. There is a home for you here if you do not feel apart of the CMU community.”

If you are interested in joining ELU, the wait is almost over. General meetings will begin next semester, but to keep up with all things ELU, check out their Facebook page for updates.