RAZA Day addresses campus diversity, resources

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The 38th annual RAZA Day was held Saturday on campus, featuring speakers and workshops intending to demystify the college experience for Latino and Chicano students.

RAZA Day, hosted by the campus RAZA Recruitment and Retention Center, is intended to encourage visiting students to attend college. RAZA planned this year’s theme as “Nuestro Mundo,” which is the relationship between communities of color and the environment, along with access to education.

RAZA Day played host to around 550 middle school, high school and community college students from around California. According to Luis Manuel Huerta Flores, the Community Engagement and Recruitment Coordinator for RAZA, the group tried to reach out to first-generation college students and students who were from low-income families. They said many of the students were from the Central Valley, a community heavily impacted by the drought.

Huerta Flores said many students in attendance are disproportionately affected by pollution because of where their communities are located. Communities of color, they said, are often close to factories or, in the case of farming communities, do not have reliable access to potable water.

RAZA described what they felt was an underrepresentation of Latino students at UC Berkeley. The campus has faced criticism from students regarding representation of some groups on campus, especially among faculty, who Huerta Flores said play a large role in creating a welcoming environment for campus students of color.

UC Berkeley freshman enrollment in fall 2015 consisted of 12.5 percent Latino and Chicano students, compared to 13.6 percent in fall 2014. As of fall 2015, 13.7 percent of campus undergraduates consisted of Latino and Chicano students.

According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, UC Berkeley developed one of the the first programs in the country for undocumented students several years ago. The campus is also in the process of implementing the African American Initiative.

“Being around people like me who have gone to college,” said Natalie Flores, a student at the event from Alisal High School in Salinas. “It makes you want it more.”

Huerta Flores said that the campus does not have enough resources intended specifically for Latino and Latina students, but did commend campus administration for expanding available resources in recent years, such as with the Undocumented Students Program.

Several speakers shared their personal experiences, and the event featured workshops intended to help educate young students on the variety of problems facing underrepresented minorities and the opportunities for students at UC Berkeley. The speakers included a woman by the name of Karla Salazar, an immigrant from El Salvador. Her son now attends UC Berkeley.

“I really liked the speakers, especially the mom,” said Alisal High School student Samantha Chavez. “It made me tear up a bit. I want to be like her son.”

Contact Anderson Lanham at [email protected].