Honoring Hispanic Students at COS


Photo by Ekrulila: https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-diploma-2293027/

Hispanic students here at COS make up not only a vast majority of the student population (Around 70% in 2021 according to collegefactual.com), but they also make up some of the brightest spots in the academic programs of this college.

As this graduating season grows ever closer, The Campus takes the time to honor a few Hispanic students who have been able to complete their associate’s degrees and will be either graduating or are leaving for a four-year university.

First up is Erika Godinez, who is a 19-year-old female student who plans on applying for the nursing program here at COS, or the program at Fresno State. She attended Sierra Vista Charter in Tulare for her high school education after growing up and being raised in Pixley her entire life.

As first-generation college students, Erika and her siblings have been able to show the success that Latino/a students can have here in the Central Valley. She has a brother who currently attends COS, as well as other cousins that have already graduated.

Not only is she a first-generation college student, but she is also a second-generation immigrant here in the United States. Her mother immigrated to the U.S. in 1989, whereas her father immigrated in 1999. Both have lived right here in the Central Valley for the entire time they have lived here.

Erika’s experience here at COS, like many students, has been fulfilling and gratifying. According to her, having access to programs that aid Latino/a students has only served to further her academic progress.

“My experience at COS has been the best. There are so many amazing programs, and the staff are all just so understanding and are able to listen to us as the students. I feel like being Latina and having all of the school programs within my reach has helped further my education, and education my parents didn’t have the opportunity to receive.” (Godinez)

Godinez has been able to make the most out of her opportunities here at COS and will soon be able to participate in a nursing program right here in the valley, where she was born and raised.

Next up is Elizabeth Avila, who is also a 19-year-old female student. She attended Tulare Union High School for her entire High School career and soon after enrolled at COS to complete her general education for the next two years.

She plans on transferring to Fresno State in the hopes of earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology after graduating this coming May.

As well as this, she is also a first-generation college student in her family and the first to be attending a university. Her family immigrated to the U.S. 23 years ago in 1999, and similar to Erika, they have always lived right here in the Central Valley. Elizabeth added what it means to her to be a Latina, as well as how her time at COS treated her,

“My time at COS was a positive experience that allowed me to figure out what career path was desirable to me. Being a Latina in higher education has led me to work harder in achieving my academic goals. There are many established stereotypes surrounding minorities and females so I feel the need to go above and beyond to prove myself.” (Avila)

Not only is Elizabeth graduating here from COS, but she was able to obtain several associate degrees along the way. She has obtained: an AAT- Transfer for elementary school teaching prep, AA- Liberal Arts Social and Behavioral Sciences, as well as an ADT- Psychology.

And last, but not least is Irbyn Fernandez, a male student who is 22 years old. The youngest of 3 siblings, both of his siblings had attended and graduated college, unlike the other two students mentioned thus far.

His mother, along with the rest of his family, moved to the U.S. in 1981 where they had lived in Los Angeles for a year before moving to the Central Valley in 1982. His grandparents, along with some of their older children had saved enough to purchase land on the outskirts of Pixley some years after, and some of his family still resides there to this day.

Although he spent much of his life in this neighborhood, known as Teviston, he was born in Tulare. He attended Mission Oak High School and was part of the class of 2018. In the next step of his educational journey, he wishes to go to any UC CSU, with a preference for CSU Berkeley, and will be majoring in psychology/sociology.

Irbyn is very aware of his cultural background and hopes to one day become a beacon for students to come to in times of need, and a teacher to future generations of students.

“I am very passionate about ethnic studies and the culture of my Hispanic roots. Having a deep understanding of the world we are currently in and how we got to this point is what motivates me to keep pursuing my majors. I hope to become an outlet of knowledge and truth like most of my college professors and high school teachers were for me.” (Fernandez)

Irbyn continued, “I find it very important to educate the upcoming generations because it is them who will be the reflection of our teachings, values, and understanding of our ever-adapting society” (Fernandez)

Of course, these are just a few graduating students worthy of being honored, but they are indicative of a large population of students here at COS. Many students have the same passion for civil justice that these students do, and have been able to show it through their involvement in the MEChA club on campus.

One of the two leaders of this club, Emily Contreras, is also a graduate this semester and was a part of helping restart the club at COS after it had remained dormant for a number of years. Emily offered some insight on what she thought was her most important action for the club this semester, “I am proud of reestablishing MEChA this semester at COS. Although we were not able to plan any events or really make an impact this semester it made me really happy to build our club and see a group of passionate people come together for a greater cause. One activity we did do as a group was going to Springville to help Xico, a cultural advisor for Wild places, set up a Two-Spirit Ceremony he puts on every year.” (Contreras)

For Emily, the most important thing for the future of the club is to organize a more unified MEChA presence on campuses, such as by grouping up high school clubs to meet at COS or even hosting panels on education, racism, and mental health. Along with this, she seeks for the club to support local businesses through organizing donation events, or through any other means.

Emily has found that the relationships she has made in this club will truly be ones she will cherish, even after she transfers on to her next destination. “I think the club will only continue to grow, especially since we were able to get a good handful of members this semester in a short amount of time. Many of us enjoyed the friendships we’ve made being in this club, and I can happily say that every club member is my friend and that I truly cherish the memories we’ve made together.” (Contreras)

Alicia Ruiz, the other co-leader for the MEChA club, shares many of the same feelings this semester that Emily does. Namely, both are extremely proud and happy with how they were able to bring people together to bring energy and passion to the club, as well as a passion for social justice.

“Together, we’ve really taken advantage of our opportunities to dig deeper into our ancestral roots by encouraging our members to embrace their indigenous, Mexican, and Chicano histories.” (Ruiz)

Ruiz continued with her favorite moment of this semester, “My favorite was when we decided to pay homage to the Chicano leaders who came before us during our club trip to the Cesar Chavez National Monument, where we were joined by Roberto “El Capitan” Bustos, who helped bring attention to the farmworkers movement”

Hispanic graduates like Emily, Alicia, and countless others continue to support social justice through the promotion of the MEChA club. Even though Emily is graduating after this semester, Alicia will be there to take the brunt of leadership, which was a concern at the start of this year.

Alicia has wished the best to those students who are graduating, and in particular, is looking forward to new opportunities and new people to meet in the coming semesters while being a part of MEChA.

“We already have members graduating this semester who all have amazingly bright futures ahead of them and will be deeply missed, such as our wonderful, Emily Contreras. She’s done so much for MEChA, and I have full faith that she and our other graduates will continue to embrace what our club stands for wherever they go.” (Ruiz)

Alicia finished with, “Before I move forward and graduate as well, I want to continue cherishing the experiences and lessons I’ve acquired along the way and leave the club in the hands of the aspiring younger Mechistas.”

COS Hispanic graduates make up a significant portion of our graduating class, and also make up the vast portion of successful students who come out of this college. The Campus extends it’s full congratulations to all graduates, and wishes the best for the MEChA club in it’s path forward.