Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Ánimo Latinx Series fosters success for Latinx students

February 7, 2022

This spring, the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions (OCAT) is hosting the Ánimo Latinx Series, which will consist of three community-building and motivational events. 

When creating the series, OCAT Student Success and Community Initiatives Coordinator Juan Flores, and Student Affairs Administration graduate student Stephanie Lopez struggled with choosing a name for the event, but they finally settled on Ánimo. 

“Ánimo means a lot of different things to anyone who speaks Spanish,” Flores said, “but all of them are related to motivation, success, will, energy and optimism. Anytime you say it, it just lifts your spirit and it gets you excited for the day. It's something we grow up with in every Latinx household … Whenever my peers, my family, my siblings saw that I was down, (they said), ‘ánimo Juan,’ like get it together or lift your spirits. As soon as they said it was like this energy that came over me.”

This lifting of spirits is exactly what they envision for the series. 

The Latinx Community Kickoff will be today, Feb. 7 at the Erickson Kiva from 6 to 8 p.m. The event will primarily be a community bonding event for Latinx students, and students of all backgrounds, to connect over conversation and food. OCAT has also planned several activities for the event including students envisioning the perfect day for themselves and a letter to their future selves, which they hope will help the students remember why they work so hard. 

“For the most part, (the activities) give students time to reflect,” Lopez said. “I feel like a lot of times, in higher education, we’re just doing assignment after assignment. We're like, go, go, go, go. We don't just ask ourselves, ‘why are we doing this? What's the purpose of this?’ I know I'm going to get my degree, but at the end of that, ‘is this making me happy?’ So this (event will) have them reflect and think back on what they really want, and if they're going to accomplish that with what they're doing.”

The second part of the Ánimo series will be on March 21. This event will be dedicated to discussing imposter syndrome — the feeling of not belonging someplace even if you have earned your spot there — which many Latinx students struggle with while attending predominantly white institutions like MSU. 

“Imposter syndrome is something that holds us back a lot,” Lopez said. “... I think especially for a lot of Latinx, historically (marginalized) communities, things like imposter syndrome are very rarely talked about in the community, so coming into these new spaces, and these new feelings, we just want to have that space to foster that, and say that it’s okay, and you're not alone, and I experienced this, and sometimes we will never get over it, but it's also something that we have to work with.”

By discussing and naming feelings like imposter syndrome, Flores believes that Latinx students will be able to better understand why they aren’t always comfortable here or why they don’t feel confident speaking up in class. Flores said that by pinpointing marginalization as the cause of those feelings, students will be able to overcome them. 

“A lot of it just comes down to giving them that language and knowing that this is something very common,” Flores said. “It's not just experienced in the Latinx community, but in other communities as well. So giving them the space to define it, explain it, and give them their ‘aha’ moments like, ‘dang, that's why I felt the way I felt before? Okay, I got it,’ hopefully that can go with them and be shared in their networks and beyond to make a difference.”

The last part of the series will be April 4, and the topic will be decolonizing mental health, which will focus on addressing stigmas around mental health in the Latinx community. 

“A lot of times we hear this in our families, the saying ‘ponte las pilas,’ which means put in your batteries, and make sure you're powered up and ready to go,” Lopez said. “But sometimes that doesn't really help us because there's a lot of things entering higher education that we struggle with — that we can't really put into words or can't really express to our families. (The event is) a safe space for everyone to be able to share those thoughts, those opinions and see what helps them, maybe to encourage other people and just to give other ideas.”

Since April 4 is still far in the future, OCAT is not entirely sure what it will look like yet, but they are considering bringing in speakers or panelists for the event. 

By doing the Ánimo Latinx Series, OCAT hopes to help close the opportunity gap by showing Latinx students that they can achieve their dreams and by giving them the resources and community to do so. 

“To OCAT, learning is very important because we have this philosophy that students cannot be what they cannot see. If they cannot see themselves doing extraordinary things, then they may not think about that right away, and they might think about it later on,” Flores said. “We try to provide them with people and information through all our programming that can help enhance their success at MSU and beyond.”

To attend the Feb. 7 Latinx Community Kickoff, register here:

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