Diesta grants opportunities for understanding, academic success

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Dixie State University will be throwing a “diesta” on April 7 to encourage networking within the community between Latinos, higher education opportunities and the general public. 

Diesta will be a celebration of Latino culture, including food vendors, music, crafts and cultural entertainment. The event is aimed toward educating the community on culture while showcasing higher education opportunities for Latino students.

“There’s a large disconnect between the Latino community and DSU,” Adelante project specialist Genesis Schaerrer said. “I’m hoping this event can help bridge that gap, and people who have never been on campus can come to feel comfortable, welcome and most importantly feel like they belong here.”

In spring 2017, 10.8 percent of Trailblazer students were Hispanic; however, in fall 2016 to 2017, 48.5 percent of Hispanic students were retained at DSU, while 52.8 percent of white students were retained. Schaerrer said DSU has a lot of resources for Latino students, like the Multicultural and Inclusion Center, but they don’t always know about the initiatives presented to help them. She said these resources are there to help students stay and advance in their college and career pursuits.

“The Latino group is the largest minority group in our country, but the rates at which these students are going and staying in college is much lower than their counterparts,” Schaerrer said. “DSU is hoping events like this can open students’ eyes to opportunities.”

Sandra Aguirre, a junior individualized studies major from Los Angeles, said there are a lot of people uneducated about the Latino community.

“I’m a firm believer that the civil rights movement is still in progress,” Aguirre said. “We’ve come a long way, but we’re still fighting the oppression of ignorance. Diesta is an opportunity for us to educate people… education is freedom and progress.”

Jesus Rosas, a junior mathematics major from St. George, said in his family, and a lot of other Latino families, there is a strong belief kids should start working immediately after high school. He said he wants prospective and current Latino students to come to Diesta and learn about the broad opportunities available to the Latino community, such as scholarships and mentorships.

“School is super helpful and can teach the community about culture and tradition along with critical thinking,” Rosas said. “It’s really important for everyone to learn all about culture and opportunities.”

Diesta is open to everyone in the community and organizers hope to educate as many people as possible, Schaerrer said. 

“Instead of segregating people we want to bring everyone together,” Aguirre said.