Club Latino a ‘family-like community’
Members of Parkland’s Club Latino say the organization behaves as a family-like community and creates long-lasting friendships as it goes about its goals of reaching out to Parkland and local high school students with Hispanic heritage.
Among the many different clubs at Parkland, one of them is Club Latino. Every Thursday at noon, Parkland students can meet in Student Life to take part in Club Latino. The club meets to just generally get together and talk about current events amidst lunchtime.
In one word, members of Club Latino described what it means to them.
“Family,” said one student. Her reply was instantly met with a team of smiles.
“It’s a small community,” said another member. “Like a lot of friendships that you build up here. It’s a good distraction from all the homework and long hours.”
Many members had the same idea of what the club meant to them. They say when one goes to the meeting for the first time, everyone seems to know each other. And in time their goal is to get to know every individual member.
“It’s a support network,” said the club’s faculty advisor Charles Larenas. “It’s a safe place to talk to people: an outreach center to go to inspire Latino youth in the community.”
For the nine years that Larenas has been doing Club Latino, the days have kept pretty much the same. Often times, students that are interested continue to stay with the club, and though they may get busy and not come for a while Club Latino is always on the same days for when they return—an added convenience for the often busy life of the college student. The club tries to make it easy for people to find them.
Apart from the lunch meetings on Thursdays, the club has events throughout the year. The events and programs often place their focus on teamwork-building. One of the events is the Buddy Walk, a nationwide series of festivities put on by the National Down Syndrome Society which celebrates Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Club Latino puts on a barbecue, as well as goes to Chicago and Wisconsin to participate in events there.
One of the programs is at Champaign’s International Prep Academy. Here they go to read to local students. They outreach to the high schools in the community, as well, to speak to students about the importance of going to college. Apart from just meeting every week, they sometimes have a speaker come into the meetings that provides different activities and discussions.
“The interactions they have with those students can make an impact on these kids,” Larenas said. “The outreach also looks good on scholarships.”
Club Latino does quite a bit for the local community. The club tries to increase the value of education to members of the community. Voluntary service is in-part how they show support to local families and services at Parkland.
Club Latino is open to all; everyone is welcome that wants to take part in current events and share in the organization’s mission of community outreach.
The club allows for students in all programs to be exposed to a new presence at Parkland that is not always seen on the surface. It is a diverse organization, with students from Brazil and Venezuela, among others.
Several members of the club gave a comical answer when asked what can be gained by joining the club: “pounds.”
People should come to the meetings with a good appetite, whether they are serving pizza, donuts, or even sandwiches. Club Latino strives to promote camaraderie, while laughing and having good conversations.
“[It’s] a safe place to just talk to people: a no-judge zone,” said one member.