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ALAS provides campus family for Latino students

ALAS. The letters stand for the Association of Latino Americano Students. But in reality, ALAS stands for so much more. The club is a family for Latin-American students, many of whom are first-generation college students. It also offers a support system for students to talk about problems, ask each other for help, or just have fun—all very important as they navigate college life and integrate into the C of I community.

C of I senior Samantha Guerrero knows exactly how hard that can be. Not living on campus, the Caldwell native struggled to feel like she was part of the community. There were no dorm-room bonding experiences, no conversations in the cafeteria, no late-night study groups. Then she decided to join ALAS as a junior. The result?

“It made my experience at the C of I so much better, having that support and people I could go to for help,” said Guerrero, an International Political Economy and Anthropology/Sociology double-major.

Guerrero’s story of finding support is a common refrain. Sophomore Daniel Hernandez, a health science major from Twin Falls, is also the first in his family to go to college.

“Being a first-generation student, ALAS truly does help you get the support of family and see you’re not alone [going through college],” he said.

The club is also a training ground for students to showcase their leadership skills, whether that means holding positions on the ALAS executive council, becoming a mentor to younger ALAS students, going to leadership conferences, or taking on internships.

“If you don’t think you have any leadership skills, we’ll expose them,” said Arnold Hernandez, C of I director of multicultural affairs. “Many times, students fail… but we brush them off, stand them up and they try again.”

Arnold has seen student after student blossom thanks to great professors, caring classmates and a close-knit campus community. But the benefits flow both ways. In 20 years, he’s watched the C of I grow from having two Latinos on campus to the currently-enrolled 130. Today, 20 percent of the student body is Hispanic, African-American, Asian-American, American Indian or multi-ethnic.

“Latino and international students bring a whole new dynamic, a diverse background and a richness that you would not otherwise see on campus,” Arnold said. “The different perspectives that they add is very important—whether that is inside or outside the classroom.”

That’s why ALAS hosts events such as Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and Cinco de Mayo, and many of its members take part in the C of I Cultural Show and Cultural Dinner. It’s a great way for them to learn more about their own culture, and also share it with the rest of the YoteFam.

“At the very least, we want people to know that Cinco de Mayo is not Independence Day in Mexico,” Arnold Hernandez said.

So whether it’s to gain a campus family, find a mentor, learn about Latino culture, or just be around a group of people who like to have fun, everyone in ALAS agrees: you should join! For more information about ALAS, stop by Arnold Hernandez’s office on the second floor of the McCain Student Center, or send an email to [email protected].

The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.

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