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Hispanic students find support

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Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs is alive and bustling once again, as students have returned to Tucson, and the cultural center, after it was saved from budget cuts in June.

Hispanic students left the University of Arizona in May for summer vacation unsure of whether they would have a Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs (C/HSA) office to come back to.

"We've been fighting to get a cultural center since 1969, so we feel very strongly about its importance and keeping it," said Jorge Paéz, a senior majoring in Mexican-American Studies and history. He explained how Chicanos began working to get a cultural center when there were less than a hundred Hispanic students at UA.

In June, the university announced that instead of closing its minority culture centers it would save money in different ways.

This was welcoming news to Socorro Carrizosa, the director of C/HSA. After working there for the past 10 years, she didn’t want to see an organization that has helped so many people shut its doors.

Since 1991, Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs has helped thousands of students make the transition to college life, explained Carrizosa, and she didn't want to see the services provided consolidated into a broader multi-cultural office for all minority groups.

Carrizosa estimates that over 1,200 students will come through C/HSA this year, and that number could be even larger, as there are now over 5,000 Hispanic students on campus.

Many of the resources that C/HSA provides are possible because of their location in the César E. Chávez building. In addition to Carrizosa’s office, there is a computer lab, a study room that also is used as a student lounge, and classrooms that are available for student groups to meet in or to hold special events.

The resources go well beyond just the physical. There are 18 clubs or student organizations that are associated with C/HSA that include regular guest speakers, and multiple mentoring programs that bring in community leaders, faculty, alumni, and professionals in diverse career fields to assist students.

“I was from out of town and C/HSA gave me a home away from home where I could make friends, find a job, and network with professionals in my field,” said Ramon Carranza, a senior majoring in math, who has been involved with C/HSA since he was a freshman.

Claudia Villaescusa shared a similar story as Ramon's. She became involved with C/HSA through a class she took freshman year that is designed to help make the transition to college life easier for Hispanic students. In the class she was encouraged to get involved in C/HSA, and once she did she realized all of the resources it offered.

Through C/HSA, Villaescusa was able to find out about new scholarships, travel abroad in Spain for a summer, and receive academic tutoring and advising. All of these resources and experiences she believes enhanced and helped her college experience.

To fund all of its programming, C/HSA relies on state money allocated through the university, as well as some fundraising. This presents a challenge for Carrizosa, as she is being forced to cut back on some valuable programming she wishes she could provide for students.

Last year, Carrizosa took a group of students out into the desert to help pick up trash and show students what it is like for an immigrant who must make the trek across the border to a city such as Tucson, but according to her, she will be unable to lead the trip this year because of budget restraints.

Many students that come through C/HSA are first generation college students, whose parents or grandparents made that same trip, so Carrizosa likes to provide the students with some perspective and motivation.

Since coming through the UA herself Carrizosa has worked for nearly 25 years to increase Hispanic student retention. She sees C/HSA as a great outlet for that goal, and according to her students it's working.

"C/HSA has provided me with the trio of academic, social, and professional support, which has allowed me to grow and succeed as a student here," concluded Carranza.

Currently C/HSA is preparing cultural and educational events for National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15- October 15.

Want to know more about DeJohn's trips and adventures follow him on Twitter @DejohnR.


Written by DeJohn Rose

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