May 082011
 
Authors: Logan Triesch and Corinne Winthrop, College Avenue Magazine

A white board with a handwritten welcome greets students as they enter El Centro, a Latina/o cultural awareness center that provides workshops and leadership roles for all students at CSU.

Ask anyone involved with El Centro however, and it’s more than just a cultural awareness center: It’s a second home. That means that come graduation day, El Centro will have to say goodbye to family.

Dalia Flores, a peer resource leader, and Meagan Thomas, a peer resource leader coordinator, are both graduating from CSU to continue on with the memory of their El Centro experiences close to their hearts.

“The main thing we do as peer resource leaders is that we are a home away from home for students,” Thomas said. “That is something that we really boast; that whether you are white, black, Hispanic, Latino or mixed race like myself, you come into the office and you feel at home there.”

Flores became more involved with the cultural awareness organization by attending events El Centro offered and taking frequent visits to the office. Flores believes that those visits helped to create friendships with the other students who worked there.

“I felt that I needed to connect with my culture and find a place that would serve as a home away from home,” Flores said.

Flores currently holds the position of peer resource leader in the El Centro office. Alongside her coworkers, Flores likes to play as a team, organizing events and programs to contribute to the office’s impact on campus.

“The Somos Rams Leadership Retreat has been a great program run every year,” Flores said. “I was honored to be able to help facilitate this year and engage our participants.”

Flores participated in the retreat two years ago and was a leader this past year. The retreat is a two-day workshop up at Estes Park to help 30 to 40 first- and second-year students with their identity, culture and academics.

Thomas also found support from El Centro, but her college experience as a whole still changed her outlook on life.

“For me college was that great humbling experience,” Thomas said. “I know I can find things I can succeed in, but I am not going to be perfect in everything, which is hard to come to terms with, but that is what has changed the most for me.”

Thomas will receive her bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing and her teaching certificate through the Education Department this May. Since early on, Thomas knew she wanted to become a teacher and hopes to go on to teach marketing in the Greeley or Windsor areas.

“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, mostly elementary school, but my senior year of high school I took a marketing class and fell in love,” Thomas said. “So I decided I would go into marketing, and I got to thinking, they are teaching me marketing at high school, so that could be my compromise.”

Flores has made plans to attend graduate school at the University of Colorado in Denver for counseling psychology and the counselor education program.

“My ultimate goal is to become a high school counselor in a Denver public school to better assist the needs of my community and make a difference in our youths’ lives today,” Flores said.

Richard Salas is the associate director of El Centro and has seen Thomas and Flores grow through college.

“Dalia really took the lead and blossomed into the leader who she is today,” Salas said. “She had a great attitude, work ethic and kind spirit.”

“[Meagan] is just an excellent role model,” Salas added. “She has done an incredible job making the transition to the university, helping other students, reaching out with the wonderful resources that we offer, not only through us, but through Colorado State University. She is a great ambassador.”

As the two depart from CSU, both Thomas and Flores will miss the El Centro environment and the experiences they gained through the office.

“I am honestly just proud of my culture,” Thomas said. “For me to be able to integrate two different cultures into my life and be proud of both of them, I am proud of the El Centro office. They are the world’s biggest encouragement.”

College Avenue reporters Logan Triesch and Corinne Winthrop can be reached at csumag@lamar.colostate.edu

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