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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

New “Raíces” coordinator plans to bring inspiration to students

Delaney Newhouse
Sergio Lagunas stands in front of the Student Services building on Feb. 2, 2023 at City College, in Santa Barbara, Calif. Lagunas is the new Raíces program coordinator at City College.

Sergio Lagunas chose to sit in the front row of his first accounting class. He was excited because he knew that he had the drive and business acumen to be an amazing entrepreneur. Here, inside of his classroom, in the front row center seat at a desk at Oxnard College, would be the first stop on his journey. Everything was falling into place.

Everything was falling into place, that is, until his accounting professor pulled out the class’ required textbook and listed the price. It cost more than $200.

Lagunas remembers the sinking feeling in his chest now, over 20 years later, upon hearing the price of that textbook. He remembers the cold recognition that he could hardly afford the tuition at Oxnard College, let alone the numerous expensive books that the various teachers required. Lagunas remembers realizing that he would have to completely reorganize his life in order to pursue his ambitions.

He also remembers the benefits he received from rearranging his schedule. It was in an English class where Lagunas found a source of inspiration he still attempts to emulate: a mentor. One day, his professor Dr. Rodriguez had pulled him aside after class and told him that he had potential.

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“That was the first time anyone had ever told me that I had potential,” Lagunas said.

Lagunas recalls his own positive experiences at the UCSB Multicultural Center and Phi Iota Alpha, a Latino fraternity, after transferring to University of California, Santa Barbara.

Now, as the new Raíces program coordinator at City College, the UCSB alumnus hopes to show students with backgrounds like his the potential that they, like him, cannot always see in themselves.

Lagunas explains that one of his objectives with the Raíces program is “not necessarily changing their minds, but inspiring them through a short 15 minute conversation, and just asking them, ‘What would you do if money weren’t an issue?’”

In the Raíces program, working specifically with Latinx students, Lagunas hopes that creating a physical and social center of community that acknowledges the work ethic, cultural wealth, and traditions that these students bring with them will better allow them to pursue their own purposes.

“One of our goals,” he said, “is to elevate students and help them become thriving scholars.”

It is Lagunas’ own background and experiences that have informed his next steps in launching Raíces. His eyes, warm and deep set, light up while he discusses his father’s passion for RC radios, and the conventions they would attend together.

“I learned that I needed to connect to people in order to move forward,” he says.

Melissa Menendez, one of the program’s faculty coordinators, depicts Lagunas’ background, experiences, and connections as a benefit.

“[SBCC liked] his previous experience working with other organizations, and leadership skills,” she said, “just [his] leadership skills and cultural pride.”

The Phi Iota Alpha brother’s podcast, named “Poder Podcast”, encapsulates these qualities. In it, Lagunas interviews various leaders and artists in the Latinx community, hoping to pull from them bits of inspiration and wisdom for his listeners.

He plans to use his many connections in the community to help create programs that inspire Raíces students, whether by inviting speakers or through experiences of cultural expression, like music, dance, and art.

“[City College] is where students can truly launch several opportunities,” Lagunas says.

Just as Lagunas found his opportunities in education, he hopes to create an environment where others can do the same.


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