How Waubonnee’s Latinx Resource Center Helps Remove Barriers to Success
My father took me to “trabajar la piedra” – working stone – for the first time under the scorching, Ecuadorian sun. As an elder, I felt happy and blessed to help my father and the other stonemasons in the difficult task of drilling and shaping stones into beautiful figures and columns that adorn parks, squares and gardens. cities in Ecuador and abroad. We paved stones from black volcanic rocks called andesites, using only a chisel and hammer.
At first I only did one cobblestone a day, while my dad did 100. On the second day I improved and was able to do three cobbles. Later, I was able to do 15 and sometimes up to 20, but I was never able to match my father. I broke many cobblestones and smashed my hands while learning to shape the shape of a cobblestone. However, thanks to my work that summer, I was able to help my family financially; and, for the first time, to buy my school supplies, my shoes and my uniforms.
I realize that life hasn’t changed much for me since those days. As the manager of the Latinx Resource Center in Waubonnee, I shape and mold young students into leaders with resources, knowledge, programs and events. Waubonnee’s new LRC helps students overcome common barriers to successful completion, including paying for education and balancing family, school, and immigration.
While I no longer hold a chisel and hammer in my hands, I often consider the deep parallelism in my work from then to today. Today, I work with my colleagues to help shape prospective Waubensee students, 30% of whom identify as Latinx. I am obligated to continue to create a more inclusive community of leaders who welcome, respect and recognize the beauty and richness of the many perspectives, worldviews, and diverse life experiences that Latinx students bring to Waubonnee.
We all have the opportunity to be stonemasons. Who are you pleading for? What tools do you hold in your hands? How can you help a student in your life to become the entrepreneur of their future?
Life alone shapes us all differently, as you can see from my story. Be an advocate for someone else who is different from you by taking the time to relate to their situation and their life. Remove labels and titles. Learn their history, person to person. Celebrate their culture and their differences. And if you find that you don’t know much about someone’s culture or traditions, be curious about who they are and how you can use past life experience to help shape their own. .
Until October 15th, we will be running several programs to educate and raise awareness about Latinx heritage. The Latinx Heritage Month Events honor the impact and influence that Latinx culture has had on American society. These events are open to members of the community and are a great way to learn. After all, what you know can help someone else grow taller in the future.
I will never forget my grandfather’s words as we left my town in Ecuador and said goodbye from our old car in search of a better life: “Lo aprendido nunca se olvida, lo que te llevas de aquí te serveá para triunfar. What you have learned is never forgotten, what you will learn from it will help you (and others) be successful.
• Franklin Ortega-Palaguachi is the Director of the Latinx Resource Center at Waubonnee Community College in Sugar Grove.