Feels like yesterday, I was walking into the Student Union and I walked to the ballroom and there, I met my mentor from METAS (Mentoring, Educating, and Transforming to Achieve Success). I was so nervous because I came from a small town that is predominantly white so I didn’t have the chance to embrace my Latini dad. I wanted to use college as an opportunity to meet people like me, those who aren’t embarrassed to be themselves and show their culture as much as I wanted to show them mine and that’s when my PRLACC journey began.
What is PRLACC?
PRLACC is the Puerto Rican/Latin American Cultural Center, but before you tell yourself that you can’t join because you do not identify as Latinx, I want you to know that PRLACC welcomes EVERY HUSKY! We love opening our arms to everyone in the UConn community. PRLACC is filled with a community of leaders, kindhearted students, and most of all, overwhelming support as you adjust to life as a college student. Now that I’m a senior, I have found myself reflecting a lot on my involvement at PRLACC. I remember participating in Homecoming during my Sophomore year, which was my favorite event that happened in the Fall semester. You get to make so many friends and memories while preparing for Lip Sync, the Homecoming parade, and the pageant. Homecoming is a great way to get involved and show off your UConn Spirit alongside your peers. In my junior year, I became the first-ever Mental Health Coalition Chair, which is a huge deal because mental health as a first-generation person of color can be difficult to manage at a white institution such as UConn. My goal for this position is to raise awareness of the struggles BIPOC students face on a daily basis and create a welcoming environment in the hopes of building a community of vulnerable, strong, and empowering individuals. Finally, I’m a student administrative assistant at PRLACC and serve as a member of the marketing committee where I keep PRLACCians engaged during the semester. This is a great opportunity to see what else is going on in the UConn Community and spread awareness on events or information that our followers should become aware of.
How can first-year students get involved at PRLACC?
First-year students are able to join any organization within PRLACC; we have so many to choose from, such as the Colombian Student Association, Puerto Rican Student Association, CASA, BAILE, DAMAS, CAMINO, Afro-Latinx, and more! Each one will welcome you with open arms! If you want to create an organization, don’t be afraid to do that! PRLACC loves when students create different initiatives because it makes PRLACC feel even more inclusive. You do not need to be committed to just one organization as well; we have students that are involved in multiple organizations and have found their people through these organizations. Another thing to mention is that Greek organizations are also found under PRLACC and are a part of the Latinx Student Leadership Council (LxSLC), so if Greek life is something you are interested in, do not hesitate to reach out to them on social media or check our CFSD’s (Center for Fraternity and Sorority Development) website that will go into more details about each council and organization found within each one.
What is one piece of advice you would give to first-year students who are new to PRLACC?
BE YOURSELF! Do not try to be someone else. I remember trying to act a certain way to feel more included with my ethnicity but trust me, it’s not the correct path to walk down on. If you feel like you aren’t “too Latinx”, “too Colombian”, “I don’t speak Spanish so others might think I’m not Latinx” or whatever you might think that is stopping you from getting involved, always remember that you are not the only one because I felt this way too. Growing up in a white town forced me to assimilate into the white community and I felt like I bonded more easily with white people than I did with Latinx individuals because I grew up around this culture; that does not make you less Latinx at all. The second piece of advice I would give is to get involved as much as possible. I loved collaborating with other departments and meeting new people from different cultural centers. I love supporting their events too because we are all a community at the end of the day. We support each other and we educate one another even more through the events we all host and speakers we bring in and the amazing network PRLACC and other cultural centers have built.
The last piece of advice is to never be afraid to not be okay. I always thought I needed to be a strong Latina and I didn’t know that when I was failing my classes my first semester that there were so many people in my position that felt the same way I did. I felt like I was not making my parents proud of me and that I was giving up on myself. Talk with others in your field and I would highly encourage you to join METAS so you can have an easy transition into college and not feel so alone. UConn is a big campus but it feels smaller when you have people to eat meals with or hang out and relax after a long week of school. You have so many outlets, do not be afraid to choose from them.
By: Kimberly Escobar
Undergraduate Finance Student
Class of 2021