Students talk success for minorities

Leah Mitchell

Walking into a room full of different nationalities can often make people uncomfortable.

That is the struggle that Grand Valley State University’s Alpha Phi Alpha and Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity Inc. tried to abate Oct. 31 with a presentation on taking down cultural barriers.

The presentation was a magnified voice for the audience to voluntarily share their views on topics such as how minorities are treated differently, the stereotypes that often partner with different nationalities and solutions that can manage these issues.

The presentation opened with Inez Escareno, vice president and programming chair of Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity Inc., and Javon Jordan, treasurer of Alpha Phi Alpha, discussing the main goal of the event: to spread cultural awareness to people of all backgrounds, from the outside perspective looking in.

Hector Garcia, president of Phi Iota Alpha Fraternity Inc., shared his view on why it was important to host Two Colors One Struggle.

“(It’s) to show people that it doesn’t matter where we come from or what we look like,” Garcia said. “The main thing here is to succeed in what you want to do. We are all here for one thing, and that is to graduate and support one another.”

Escareno stated a statistic from the Center of Education that says Latino and black students are more likely to drop out of school than Caucasians. Different factors such as role models, limited resources, language barriers and stereotypes were discussed to explain this statistic. In unity with this topic, Escaro drives the take-home point.

“It doesn’t matter what color or race you are, you can succeed no matter what,” he said.

Act on Racism, a student-oriented performance group organized by GVSU sociology professor Jennifer Stewart in 2005, performed five different skits that illustrated real situations that students have experienced concerning racism.

“We formed AOR because we were tired of feeling disempowered in dealing with racism on campus,” Stewart said. “Though we didn’t have money or positions of power, we still had mouths, bodies and ideas and these were enough for us to challenge what we say in the world…we can do this by performing real things that have happened on our campus. Hopefully we can start a dialogue and work together so we all have a vested interest in solving the problem of racism and racial inequality.”

AOR invites everyone to its major performance Nov. 28 at 5 p.m. in the Kirkhof Center.
With words of wisdom and encouragement, Mike Wade, assistant director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Ferris State University and the GVSU Alpha Phi Alpha chapter adviser, spoke on how to make a difference in one’s own life.

Wade said, “We are who we are because of our experiences,” and concentrated his words around that fact.

He inspired the audience by sending three separate challenge points its way: have an open mind, dare to be different and get involved on campus. He said all are important to become a successful individual and making the world what they want it to be.

Lastly, GVSU Spanish professor Medar Serrata told of his own story about the human capacity of overcoming obstacles and achieving one’s goals.

“If there is a lesson to be learned from my story it is this: Nothing except yourself can prevent you from being successful,” Serrata said. “No obstacles will be high enough if you follow your heart and know exactly what it is that fills your heart with joy. The sooner you find this out, the better. Listen to that voice inside of you. Study something that you are passionate about, not something that will get you a good-paying job. Because the true measure of success is not money, it is to really enjoy what you do. You all have what it takes to be successful, you have already proven it. Your future is in your hands, take this opportunity and follow your dreams. Do this for all the people who believed in you, but most importantly do it for yourself. You deserve to be happy.”

Escareno and Jordan concluded the night by highlighting different resources for students of different ethnicities throughout GVSU’s campus: the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Brothers Program, the Hermanos Program, Minorities Interested in Business, the Latino Student Union, the African Student Union and the Black Student Union.

For more information, check out GVSU’s student organization website,
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