Chicano/Hispano center serves many functions

By Megan Steelman

Arizona Summer Wildcat

Students with a grounded campus life tend to do better in their academic life.

Knowing this, the Hispano/Chicano Resource Center focuses on helping students get through their crucial first two years and then encourages them to get involved in campus life.

The director of the center, Salomon Baldenegro, knows that while Hispano/Chicano students may need a base to get acquainted with the University of Arizona campus, it is important for them to not rely on the center and to take advantage of all that the UA has to offer.

Baldenegro, a Tucson native who received both his B.A. and two masters degrees from the UA, has been the director of the center for the past six years and having already met many of the center's goals he looks forward to meeting the new goals he has set for the next five years.

Wildcat: How does the Resource Center serve students, what is its purpose?

Solomon Baldenegro: Well, it serves a lot of purposes. It serves as a base, an informational point, a place where people feel comfortable coming occasionally where they can receive good information from people who are supportive.

Something that our students, and for that matter, all students, feel is a sense of alienation. That is true of white students, black students, whoever. The purpose of our center is to provide a friendly place for students who may not feel completely comfortable somewhere else.

Also, just the presence of the center is a signal not only to our students, but to all students, that our people are an important and integral part of our society, especially in Arizona ... It is important for people to appreciate that and realize that.

On a more concrete and practical level, we provide all kinds of services. We do advocacy, for example, we help people open doors. Sometimes students run into problems that are very solvable, but they don't know how to solve them . But instead of doing things for students, we try to teach them how to solve the problems, but if they can't do it themselves, then we do it for them.

WC: How does the center reach out and encourage students?

S.B.: We encourage our students to get involved in clubs, intramural sports, we sponsor some teams. We encourage them to use the library, and do all those things that we know, because of research, work. We do what we can to ground our students, to get them involved in campus life.

People have a real misconception about us, I think, and that is, many times people think that we are self-segregating. But in reality we are doing the opposite. Our students come here at first, but what we try to do, is to wean them off of the center. We try to get them involved in different programs, different clubs, whatever. And we see this working too . we see that over 54 percent of minority students who participate in school activities, socialized with, ate with and studied with people of different ethnic backgrounds. . .What the research concluded (referring to a study of minority students done at the University of Michigan) is that students who take part in programs like this, an ethnically based program, are actually interacting more frequently with students of other ethnic backgrounds.

WC: What are the Center's goals for the coming school year?

S.B.: In the next five years I hope that, at minimum, our graduation rate will mirror our presence in the student body. Another goal, is to increase our presence here, I happen to believe that our presence in the student population should reflect our presence in the state. Conservatively, we comprise 20 percent of the state population, and I would hope that within the next five years, we would comprise that much of the university population. We currently comprise about 12 percent of the university population.

I would also like to see more Chicano, more black, more minority faculty members, that is not only good for our students, but good for all students. The bottom line is that these people are going to live together and work together, so the more interaction that you have, the better.

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