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A Welcoming from El Centro

El Centro event welcomes and connects Latinx students and community members

Music and cheerful chatter filled Arcata’s Redwood Park on Sunday as Humboldt State University’s El Centro Académico Cultural held its Convivio de Bienvenida, a convivial welcoming event.

Ritz Garcia, a junior and critical race, gender and sexuality studies major and liaison for El Centro, said he has loved being a part of El Centro.

“It’s made me feel like family,” Garcia said. “Like there’s somewhere I belong.”

Ritz Garcia, junior critical race, gender and sexuality studies major, at the Convivio de Bienvenida on Sept. 15. Garcia is a liasion for El Centro. | Photo by James Wilde

The gathering served as an opportunity for Latinx students, families and community members to convene and connect with one another.

Resource centers from HSU and the local community offered information on a wide range of topics that included parenting lessons, food pantries, housing insecurity, drug addiction recovery, communication with law enforcement and the expansion of diversity in the community.

Meanwhile, children played in the grass and members of Latino Outdoors led hikes into the surrounding redwoods every 30 minutes.

Daniel Gallardo, vice president of LatinoNet and coordinator for the Assisting Families to Access Change Through Resources Americorps program, hoped to connect attendees with community offerings.

“There’s a perception of Humboldt not having a lot of resources,” Gallardo said. “We’re trying to debunk that.”

Gallardo emphasized that resources for the Latinx community are available in Humboldt but can be difficult to access. Gallardo urged students to join the AFACTR program, which has a goal of preventing child abuse in Humboldt County. AFACTR awards up to $10,000 per year in services.

Jorge Matias, health educator for St. Joseph Health, pushed table visitors to check out health classes offered in Eureka and Fortuna. Matias promoted a Zumba class for physical health but also emphasized the importance of mental health.

Vice President of Latinonet and Program Leader at Americorps Daniel Gallardo at the Convivio de Bienvenida, a Convivial Welcome from HSU’s El Centro Académico Cultural on Sept. 15 at Arcata’s Redwood Park. Gallardo hopes to make resources more available for the surrounding community. | Photo by James Wilde

“We want to get rid of the stigma with mental health,” Matias said.

Before rain clouds crept in, attendees enjoyed a free lunch alongside a brief mariachi performance. A table for Adventure’s Edge offered raffle tickets for two new backpacks while another table for Equity Arcata offered information on housing, employment and education.

El Centro intentionally designed the event with inclusivity in mind. El Centro, which was previously known as the Latinx Center for Academic Excellence, changed its name to better represent those it serves.

Lunch at the Convivio de Bienvenida, a Convivial Welcome from HSU’s El Centro Académico Cultural on Sept. 15. The event, held at Arcata’s Redwood Park, had free food for all attendees. | Photo by James Wilde

“Not everybody identifies as Latinx,” Garcia said. “El Centro sounds more inviting.”

HSU’s Hispanic Serving Institutions STEM grant, a $3.9 million U.S. Department of Education gift spread over five years, from 2016 to 2021, funded the event.

Each table offered its own brand of services focused on improving the local community. Bertha de la Cruz, a representative for Food for People, sought to connect attendees with free food resources.

“There’s tons and tons of food,” de la Cruz said. “I wish I would’ve known all of this as a student.”

Devon Hernandez, academic and career adviser, helmed a table for HSU’s Academic and Career Advising Center.

Academic and Career Advisor Devon Hernandez at the Convivio de Bienvenida, a Convivial Welcome from HSU’s El Centro Académico Cultural on Sept. 15 at Arcata’s Redwood Park. | Photo by James Wilde

“We’re here to make sure students have the resources they need,” Hernandez said.

For attendees of the Convivio de Bienvenida, resources appeared abundant. More information on El Centro and their upcoming events can be found in room 205 of Nelson Hall East or on their website which is still branded as the Latinx Center for Academic Excellence.

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