Leading the Latino community

The newly established club Latino Leaders at Sonoma State University (LLSSU) now provides a link between students and the local Latino community. Students Eduardo Vasquez and Gonzalo Romo, along with Faculty Advisor Daniel Malpica, an associate professor of Chicano and Latino studies who holds a doctorate in sociology, founded it two months ago.

After meeting in class, Vasquez and Romo were inspired to create a club that would connect current Sonoma State University students with the community by building social capital through networking. Despite its newness, the club has already reached over 300 likes on Facebook and has hosted multiple guest speakers and networking events this semester.

“The group started out through very informal discussions in the classroom [and] that creating this club was very necessary in many different ways,” said Malpica. “There was a lot of interest in coming together as an entity and providing some sort of connection between all of these individuals that were already working together and working with already established groups.”

LLSSU focuses on networking, leadership, civic engagement, volunteer opportunities and professional development and advancement opportunities. It aims at preparing students for their lives after college, whether they decide to continue their education with graduate school or enter into the work field.

LLSSU has formed a strong relationship with the organization Sonoma County Latino Leaders: Los Cien, which translates to “the hundred” in English.

With 15 percent of the student body self-identifying as Latino/Hispanic, LLSSU gives students the opportunity to meet with successful Latino professionals in Sonoma County and potentially learn of internship and job opportunities through those connections. LLSSU is not limited to any race, religion, national origin or ethnicity and is open to all students.

“It was the first time I wanted to join a club,” said student Hugo Chung. “I’m from Ecuador, and being an international student, I didn’t know anyone when I moved here last year.”

The club hosted its first Sonoma State University networking event on Nov. 8, which was a luncheon in the Commons. In attendance were club members, local elected officials, faculty, campus administrators and staff. Vasquez stated that President Ruben Armiñana has also expressed support towards their club endeavors.

“Compared to the first luncheon we went to, I felt a lot more comfortable at this event,” said sophomore Joanna Pulido. “It comes from practice; before I felt out of my comfort zone, but now it is easier to go and talk to people.”

Some of the guest speakers who have come to LLSSU meetings include Donna Zapata from Redwood Credit Union, Gabriel Gonzalez, the former city manager of Rohnert Park and Marcos Suarez, a Sonoma State University alumnus who now works for the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.

Suarez was recently in attendance at a forum organized by Los Cien over the recent shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa last month with District Attorney Jill Ravitch, Sheriff Steve Freitas and Santa Rosa Police Chief Tom Schwedhelm.

“There were a lot of people talking to students; they want to know what we’re doing and how we’re involved,” said Vasquez. “This club wants to create a sense of mentorship [and] we’re here to support other clubs too. We’re an on-campus organization and we want to come together in a collective community.”

The short-term goals of the club are to make LLSSU more structured and organized, keep track of who is a member and begin collecting a payment of $20 a semester.

The money would go into future events and supplies. Because LLSSU is new, they are still in the initial stages of organizing their internal structures and processes.

LLSSU has been meeting weekly on Fridays at 5 p.m. in Salazar 2023, but their schedule may be differing as finals week approaches. Look for LLSSU on Facebook and Instagram to find out more about their upcoming events.