April 14, 2017

Latina/o Studies Program launches crowdfunding effort

For 30 years, the Latina/o Studies Program (LSP) has been a hub for research and community. To celebrate its anniversary, the program has launched the “Let’s Dream Together” crowdfunding campaign to raise $20,000 in support of LSP students.

Funds will be used to support student research and conference participation; provide book awards for LSP courses; provide Commencement stoles; support the Mi Comunidad graduate-undergraduate mentoring program and Latin@s Thrive! advising series; and support engagement and collaborations with the local community.

“It was the Nov. 14 statement by the Cornell Latino Alumni Association (CLAA) that galvanized this effort at this historic moment,” said Debra Castillo, director of LSP and professor of comparative literature in the College of Arts and Sciences. “That letter began with the strong statement that ‘we stand with you,’ and ended with the commitment to work on concrete ways to back those words. Our alumni have been crucial to the vibrancy of the program over the last 30 years, and we’ve been working closely with the board of CLAA on this campaign.”

Campaign student ambassador Rigoberto Perez Hernandez ’17 says the campaign is a chance for him to give back.

“LSP has been the main driving force that has kept me (and others) going toward earning our diploma,” said Hernandez, a first-generation Latino college student. “The faculty and staff of the Latina/o Studies Program have been instrumental in my academic success and my professional and personal development. Whether through direct counseling/mentorship, exposure to research opportunities, or through financial support, the program has allowed me to fully explore what Cornell has to offer.”

Castillo described LSP as a “dynamic community” encompassing students, faculty and staff from diverse backgrounds and reflecting the heterogeneous Latina/o population in the U.S., which today totals more than 55 million people. The program offers safe spaces and support for undocumented students as well, giving students a place to share their fears, frustrations and hopes.

Miguel Martinez ’18, also a first-generation college student, is the son of two Mexican immigrants and says LSP played a vital role in making Cornell feel like a second home.

“I cannot emphasize enough how good it feels to be able to see someone who looks like me and understands me in both faculty and staff positions,” he said. “They inspire me to continue with my education and give me hope that one day I can be in a position in life where I can make a difference as they all have done in my life.”

The crowdfunding campaign’s purpose, he points out, “is to support students like myself and help them succeed at Cornell.”

Campaign organizers also emphasize LSP’s importance as a research center. In addition to providing a collaborative hub for faculty, LSP supports student research with academic support services, meeting and study space, a library and a computer lab with printing services.

Martinez says LSP gave him his first opportunity to take courses about his own culture, which have helped him to “contextualize my experiences, see the bigger picture, and have a better understanding of the Latinx community in the U.S. and the challenges we face.”

Linda B. Glaser is a staff writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.