(Portland, Ore.) June 8, 2011 – "La Casa Latina," a support center at Portland State University (PSU) for Latino students opened Wednesday in a ceremony that included about 150 visitors.
The room, designed to be an inviting meeting place for Latino students to study and meet with advisors and mentors, is a product of "¡Éxito!" an initiative begun in 2009 to advance Latino student success at PSU. An ¡Éxito! task force in 2010 recommended construction of the support center as one of several ways the university could help the Latino student population. The new space will have a staff person and is filled with original art, comfortable furniture and three new computer stations.
"The space is a wonderful thing, but it's only a visual manifestation of the many programs we're promoting for Latino success," said PSU President Wim Wiewel during Wednesday's grand opening ceremony.
In addition to opening La Casa Latina, other goals of ¡Éxito! include doubling the number of Latino faculty, advisors and administrators at PSU, offering bilingual family orientation, and providing more scholarships for Latino students.
The speakers at the ceremony included Mario Quintana, a PSU International Studies major who grew up near Hood River, and Maria Bartolome, a Roosevelt High School senior who will enter PSU in the fall. Both have received guidance through PSU's Office of Diversity and pushed for the creation of La Casa Latina.
"Being part of La Casa Latina will be a guiding force in my college career," Bartolome said.
Latinos make up 20 percent of students in Oregon's public schools, and are the fastest growing population in Oregon. PSU's Latino student population is about 1,600. Boosting the number of Latino college students is one of the goals of ¡Éxito!, which is Spanish for "success."
The grand opening came a day after the demise of SB 742, which would have allowed the non-U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Oregon's seven public universities. Wiewel encouraged the crowd to look on the positive side, saying the support of the bill by PSU and the Latino community was a great organizing effort that can bring the issue of "tuition equity" for Latino students to the national level.
La Casa Latina is located adjacent to PSU's Multicultural Center, and features art created by students under the direction of PSU art instructors Kanaan Kanaan, Hector Hernandez, and Mandee Schroer. They include a three-panel mural depicting Latinos progressing from migrant labor to college life and academic success, a large mixed media panel combining college themes with Latino folk symbols, and a collection of paintings by high school students.