Four board members of the Association of Latino Employees (ALE) stood proudly as they prepared to deliver their speech. President and founding member Carlos “Tito” Altamirano donned a shirt with the words “Educated Latino” emblazoned on the front. To their left sat the Board of Trustees, and to their right was the public—all were an audience to ALE’s first presentation to spark a collective conversation about equality, empowerment, and representation for members of the Latinx community at PCC.
ALE gave a presentation at the Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 15 entitled “PCC se puede: The state of Latinx education at our college” in the hopes of increasing representation for Latinx employees on campus in order to provide better support for students. Those who gave the speech include Altamirano, Educational Awareness Chair Dr. Michaela Mares-Tamayo, Classified Representative Ernesto Partida and Faculty Representative Desiree Zuniga.
The issue is an ongoing topic of discussion for the association but is especially important to address during Latinx Heritage Month. ALE wants those who feel isolated, marginalized, or tokenized to know that their voices have been heard and that their concerns have not fallen on deaf ears.
“Latinx Heritage Month is about recognizing the strengths and contributions that Latinx people routinely bring,” said Mares-Tamayo, “and taking action to continue the collective work that still needs to be done not just for one month during the year.”
The association proposed solutions to create equitable hiring, ensure continued learning and provide directed resources for students and employees.
PCC has been a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) since 1990. About 51 percent of PCC students are Latinx. However, this is not reflective in the school’s hiring process. A slide from the presentation revealed that less than 20 percent of both tenured and non-tenured faculty are Latinx, and an even smaller percentage of representation is seen in the Academic Senate and senior leadership.
“Students make meaningful connections with mentors with whom they can identify with on some level,” stated Zuniga in the presentation. “While it is not the only determining factor, a shared racial ethnic background can inspire a greater sense of trust and confidence that a student’s own experience might be better understood and not subject to question.”
Furthering education through continued learning will broaden students’ perspectives and fulfill PCC’s mission to serve as an equity-minded community.
Additionally, ways that PCC can provide directed resources are through physical and meaningful signals. Mentioning that PCC is an HSI on the school website, naming buildings after accomplished Latinx alumni, increasing public art and identifying district funds to support holistic wellness for all Latinx members of PCC’s community are all ways that the Board can contribute to the cause.
“As our president has set big goals for our college,” said Partida, “it becomes imperative that we really ‘begin to walk the walk if we are going to talk the talk.’ Our Board of Trustees play a big role in the decision-making of our campus, therefore they need to keep this topic in mind in all other decision-making that they do.”
ALE’s presentation emphasized the areas that PCC has to grow in to truly support members of the community.
“It’s important for ALE to articulate where PCC is doing a good job,” said PCC’s Superintendent/President Dr. Erika Endrijonas, “but also where we could do better.”
ALE’s motivation and purpose is to enrich students’ experiences at PCC. Having more Latinx employees can not only improve their education, but provide a supportive network with multiple resources to help students achieve their goals.
“Outside of my program,” said Altamirano, “I have witnessed many occasions where it was obvious that people of color were being discriminated against or being held to a different standard or not being supported as others were. Seeing this both at our college and in the community has pushed me to do what I can to help ease the transition of our students from high school to college, and then from PCC to the workforce or transfer.”
All students, faculty and staff can support each other by ensuring positive activism to spark change. Advocating for such causes often falls on a select few individuals, but it is important for the entire campus to play a part in changing and directing the current circumstances towards better representation for those in the community.
“We end with an invitation,” said Altamirano at the end of the presentation. “Join us in celebrating Latinas/os/xs at PCC learning from, about, and with us. Join us in embracing the work ahead.”