The student organization Movimiento Estudiantes de Solidaridad y Apoyo (MESA) held its first event of the year on February 25 at the Latinx Cultural Center. The students played a few lottery rounds while learning about MESA’s work.
MESA’s mission is to “answer the call for what needs to be done not only within DePaul’s Latinx community but also in the greater Chicago area.”
By hosting events throughout the school year, they hope to provide social, vocational, academic and mental health services while emphasizing their cultural connections.
Emily Vallejo, president of MESA, said she was a little nervous about her first official event in the role.
“We really wanted to get a good first impression,” Vallejo said.
About 20 students attended the first MESA event – more than they expected.
“It was really gratifying to see everyone communicating with each other, that was the purpose of the event,” said María Martínez, president of the social and academic committee of MESA.
MESA board of directors consists of nine members. Vallejo leads social justice work at MESA, and other board members also have other ideas in mind, including career and academic outreach for Latino students at DePaul.
Board members are supported by Mariela Aranda, who is MESA’s educational advisor.
MESA began when Vallejo and co-chair Evelyn Barrios met and talked with other students about creating a space for Latino students at DePaul.
“Our first session was great, we exchanged ideas,” Martinez said. The conversation really pushed us to keep planning for MESA.
Francisco Patiño, president of MESA’s culture and community committee, says the club “was born out of the desire to be together”.
“We [Latino students] see each other in class but we don’t see each other outside of class,” Patiño said. First, because there is no place for us, where are we going? We have created this space so that we can be together and share it with other students.
Vallejo says the Latinx Cultural Center has organized events in conjunction with the Black Cultural Center and the APIDA Cultural Center. Other upcoming events include activities with the community, such as volunteering or a movie night.
“We’re thinking of sending out surveys to get a sense of what people would like,” Vallejo said.
So far, the students in attendance have had a great time at the first MESA event. They are excited for what is to come.
“I’m excited to see the potential in the organization because I know sometimes you can feel isolated in the yards, especially DePaul in general,” sophomore Lila Nambo said. “I really appreciate that.”
First-year student Fiorella O’Connor felt that MESA had created a “very inclusive and welcoming” space.
“It’s really cool to find people who identify with you and have had the experiences you’ve had,” O’Connor said.
For other students, like freshman Annette Macias, MESA provides an opportunity to connect with their roots and make new friends.
“I was looking for an organization that engages the Latinx community because I haven’t seen many organizations about the Latinx community,” Macias said. “I am very passionate about being involved in my community.”