As I have mentioned in a few of my previous blog posts, LARES has been a safe haven for me ever since I transferred to UIC at the start of this year. The program, located at SSB, not only recruits students to UIC, but also aids those students in a whole multitude of ways once they have enrolled at the university. Throughout the year I have both leaned on and advocated for LARES, convincing countless students to attend tutoring sessions and workshops while also using the space to study and vent to my counselor about the woes of sophomore year.
It turned out that my first year here happened to be LARES’ 40th, which meant a day was in order to commemorate the successes, activism and exceptional services of LARES. The program’s grand event took place on March 7th and began with a summit at the Illinois Room in SCE, followed by a reception at East Terrace. During the summit, previous director Dr. Leonard Ramirez, Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center Jose Lopez, former University of Illinois Board of Trustee Ada Lopez, and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia were all members of a panel that educated the audience on LARES’ longstanding legacy at UIC as well as the achievements of the Latino community within the university and around Chicago. They also touched on plans they had to better the standing of Latinos within our education system, while mentioning the fact that UIC has recently become and HSI (Hispanic Serving Institution), much thanks to the hardworking staff at LARES.
The speakers captivated me with their deep knowledge of Latino issues in Chicago and in universities, but I must admit I was a bit starstruck as I listened to Chuy, the moderator of the panel. As you may know Chuy Garcia ran for mayor last year, and while he did not win, he impressively forced Rahm into a runoff. As I munched on my steak tacos, I mustered up the courage to go up to him for a quick photo op when the panel was through. After internally freaking out upon meeting him, I went with the impressive group of LARES commemorators to the East Terrace. Here, Deborah Santiago of Exelencia in Education, the Chancellor of UIC Dr. Michael Amiridis, and Congressman Luis Gutierrez gave speeches praising LARES and the fantastic work it’s done in aiding students of all different backgrounds at the university as well as the improvements its facilitated in the Latino community. The event was a quite the success and while I had to refrain myself from asking Congressman Gutierrez from signing my copy of his autobiography, I had a fantastic time and was educated on the rich history and excellence of UIC’s program that I have found solace in.
Lucy Teruel is a sophomore majoring in communications and minoring in political science. Born and raised on the North Side of Chicago, Lucy loves music, French, shopping, going to the gym and traveling. She’s also an avid sports fan with a particular penchant for the Chicago Cubs. She hopes to one day become a sportscaster, so don’t be surprised if you catch her on the nightly news a few years from now.