A classroom of mostly dark-haired students sit in clusters of three or four, chattering in Spanish here, English there — sometimes both in the same conversation. A table in the front is covered with ingredients for make-your-own nachos. The smell of refried beans permeates the air.
A sophomore wearing a shirt that reads ‘Keepin’ the Dream Alive’ stands up front. She calls the meeting to order, and tells the room her name is Kayla Marquez and she is Latino Club’s president. The purpose of this meeting is to introduce new members to the old.
Marquez peers at a cell phone. She reads a question from the prompt on the screen. “What animal represents you and why?”
The students take turns answering.
A sloth, one says. A cat. A talking parrot. An albino tiger! one girl exclaims excitedly.
A boy in the front speaks up. He would be a rock, he says, because he’s useless.
Marquez frowns. “You are not useless. Don’t say that about yourself.”
After several more questions, and a nacho break, Marquez and treasurer Luz Del Valle begin a Google Slides presentation about Latino Club. Marquez and Del Valle talk about the club’s mission of community service and preserving Latino culture.
Laura Evans, Latino Club co-adviser, makes a comment about the club’s volunteering. “I’m actually hearing things out there about Latino Club,” she says, motioning to the world outside of West Salem High.
Over the course of the presentation, Marquez and Del Valle cover the volunteering history of Latino Club, the benefits of its social activities (“We still like to incorporate fun into it,” Del Valle says) and the fact that members of all ethnicities are welcome to join.
Later, in the library, Evans, Latino Club co-adviser of three years, discusses Latino Club. (The other adviser is Melissa Reynaga, West’s CSOC.)
Evans has watched Latino Club go from a place to hang out after school to a motivated service organization.
“It’s really impressive and fun to see kids turn into who they should be,” Evans said of watching students take responsibility for the club.
Evans, who often refers to the irony of a “white” Latino Club adviser, said the club draws people for all kinds of reasons — students in search of culture (West’s student population is 19 percent Latino), friends, and getting involved.
The nature of the club also fosters serious conversations about race in the twenty-first century. The club members recently had a discussion about whether the name ‘Latino Club’ was still appropriate. After the discussion, they decided that their focus on culture legitimized the title.
“[Latino Club is] a safe place to talk about what is racist and what is culture,” Evans said.
Latino Club meets Wednesdays after school in room B225.