American University’s Latinx & American Student Organization (LASO) is making strides to become a more prevalent voice for Latinx students on the Washington D.C. campus. With over 500 members on their listserv, biweekly meetings, and large events; the campus is quickly becoming aware of LASO’s presence.
Within the last year, LASO has gained a new executive board that immediately began a rebranding process to heighten LASO’s status on campus.
One of the first steps in LASO’s update process was transitioning from a solely cultural organization to one that is also political. The executive board is working to be an interdisciplinary organization that covers many facets. With the current political climate and issues the Latinx community is facing with immigration, DACA, and hate speech; LASO has raised their political voice. Just over 11 percent of American University’s students identify as Latinx.
Marlin Ramos, the outreach coordinator said it hasn’t been an easy path.
“Honestly it’s been really hard… it’s like being a figure on campus of the Latino voice and being able to navigate that… we need to make sure we’re providing a space not only to discuss but also to build and support each other.”
Ramos said after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals decision in September, LASO used their voice to uplift the spirits of students who were deeply upset by the news.
The name of the organization was also changed from Latino American Student Organization to its current name to be more inclusive and intersectional. The website has been updated with a new symbol; a power fist that is also a rose. The colors were changed to red and black, and the website is easily accessible.
Along with these new changes, LASO has gained recognition on campus for their large events. Carolyn Mejia, the programming deputy, helps to put these events together and work with the university during the process.
“Last semester we had the Noche Latina which was at the tavern, it was a big dance party and we had food. We had a very good turn out. We’ve noticed that people are taking more attention of our club and what we do and the general membership of students has grown.”
The organization has networking events, harvest festivals, food truck festivals, Latinx sexual education events and more. They also partner with other organizations to create larger and dynamic events.
Lily Moreno, the vice president, and programming director has been on the executive board for two years. She has seen all of the changes first hand. Moreno said students who aren’t in the organization stop her on campus to congratulate her on the work they are doing. The executive board was also invited to speak with the university president, Sylvia Mathews Burwell. She also said she has seen a change in non Latinx students becoming more socially aware.
The organization has a goal of being ally’s to other minority groups on campus as well. They stood in solidarity with African-American students after a racist incident on campus last month.
Their main goal; to educate and be a place for the Latinx students to share their concerns and enjoy themselves. They want to grow even more and continue to let their voice be heard.
“We have become a very prominent, powerful voice on this campus especially in times of need… we’ve tried to be there no to only for our community but all the communities on campus who are suffering… I am very proud of the work that we have all done,” Moreno said.