“Raíces” program created to help uplift and inspire Latinx students

Melissa+Menendez%2C+English+department+chair+outside+of+the+Campus+Center+on+Sept.+28%2C+2021+at+City+College+in+Santa+Barbara%2C+Calif.+Menendez+is+the+coordinator+of+establishing+the+Ra%C3%ADces+program.

August Lawrence

Melissa Menendez, English department chair outside of the Campus Center on Sept. 28, 2021 at City College in Santa Barbara, Calif. Menendez is the coordinator of establishing the Raíces program.

Delaney Newhouse, Staff Writer

Faculty at City College are working to establish a program to empower Latinx students by constructing a space for personal development and allowing them to co-create their own courses.

¡Raíces: First Year and Beyond!” is named for the Spanish word that indicates the root purpose or the cause, the raíz one may have. In providing peer mentors, workshops, opportunities, and a wealth of interaction with staff in designing courses, the program intends to build on indigenous knowledge and mindsets to build self-reliance and self-determination in underserved students.

The Raíces program is the culmination of several years of work among the staff, culminating in City College receiving a Title V-HSI Grant, a federal grant aimed at developing Hispanic Serving Institutions, this past year.  Program developer and English professor Melissa Menendez plans to use the five-year grant to get the program off the ground.

“The hope is to begin this program in fall 2023,” she said, “and in three years, institutionalize it.”

Menendez coordinated with history professor Justina Bueller to create a faculty institute to jumpstart the program. While 26 professors have joined as of a retreat held in September, Menendez noted that an important piece in truly establishing Raíces is still in the works. City College is still in the process of hiring a program coordinator, whose job description includes the planning, sponsoring, and organization of all Raíces activities and programs. Due to this hurdle, Menendez is cautious in creating too many plans for the program at large.

“Hopefully, by the end of this month, we’ll know who [the new coordinator] is,” she said. “Once that person is on board, that person and myself will continue to develop the program.”

Program development further relies on the assignment of two academic counselors to the program, and a student program advisor to be named in the spring 2023 semester.

The creation of this administration team for Raíces will lead, then, to the gathering of student input. While Menendez hopes to compile design input before the program launch, she knows that much of the information she will receive will be in response to the initial curriculum. She said that it will “develop organically.”

The goal of the program, Menendez said, is “increasing enrollment, retention, graduation, and completion…for Latiné, Latinx, Latino, and Latina students, as well as low-income and part-time students.” Raíces’ methodology of student-teacher collaboration will begin with the logo design.

Menendez has put out a call for any students who wish to join a collaborative group to create the new Raíces logo. Students interested in generating a design based on concepts including cultural identity, community, and belonging, may email Menendez with a brief statement of interest on or before 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 21.