La Casa is open

New Student Latino Engagement Center welcomes all

Written by Yvette Alvarez

Victor Duran | Viewpoints GRAND OPENING: Members of the RCC community enjoy conversation at the grand opening of La Casa.

Riverside City College students now have a place they can call home. La Casa or the Latino Student Engagement Center was the newest center to be unveiled on Monday, Nov. 2 in the Digital Library 112.

Gloria Ramos-Olivarez, a counselor for the Extended Opportunity Programs and Services, welcomed students to La Casa with refreshments and churros. Ramos said she made sure to give personal tours to all students who arrived.

“I’ve only been here four weeks, but we changed it up before because it used to be Puente,” said Ramos.

“As far as I know this used to be managed by the Puente Program and their advisor,” Rebecca Faircloth, an EOPS/CARE specialist, further explains. According to rcc.edu, the purpose of the Puente Project was to help RCC students transfer to four-year colleges and universities.

La Casa has plenty of features which range from a computer lab, a latino resource lending library, math calculators and laptops. All of which are available to any RCC student who walk through the door. With their lending program, students are able to check out a laptop or a book without the hassle of going to the library.

Even with all these features, La Casa is still expanding. “We have a lot of plans to develop a more resourceful place that students can engage in,” said Ramos. Currently, La Casa is looking to open up evening hours for students taking night classes.

“Hopefully, . . .we can transition up the Latino Student Engagement Center to help students with retention, resilience and also with success as far as transferring,” Ramos said.

The Latino Student Engagement Center is also trying to develop a male group. “That’s one of the biggest issues, male retention 20 percent of students drop out of community colleges and out of that 50 percent are male Latinos.”

Before the end of the semester, the student resource center wants to develop a student organization and a mentoring group. The Mathematics Department has showed some interest in volunteering and helping students with their homework. Ramos said that she will also be looking into other activities such as guest speakers and a scholarship board.

“We will formalize more with the math department and maybe other kind of disciplines” Ramos said, “…usually we have a lot of students in here, but more and more students are starting to find out we exist, so that’s what we want to do, we want to get the word out that we exist here.”

La Casa does plan on tutoring students on a variety of subjects, such as math and writing. They previously had a program where an instructor would come in and help students start and review their essays.

According to Ramos, everything in the Latino Student Engagement Center has been paid for by the Riverside Community College District Student Equity Plan, which was created to increase the academic success of underperforming populations.

“The president was actually here this morning and he was talking about more than just books, more than just computers, he is really encouraging students to be engaged and to feel like this is part of theirs and this is their support to help them succeed,” Ramos said.

Students are already enjoying the new resource center. “I think it’s important to have a Latino and Chicano center, it’s comfortable in here, there’s couches, a library and the resources here are really good,” said RCC student Natalie Madero.

One student came across the event while she was in the Digital Library and was approached by Ramos, who explained to her that this center was like a mini library without the rules of being quiet.

It’s so much better than the library, I think, because there is so much restriction over there, even if you rent a room it takes 20 minutes … and you can’t even be loud because then they’ll tell you to tone it down or lower the volume.” said RCC student, Gloria Mendoza.“Over here you can have a cup of coffee, enjoy food, and it’s so comfortable, I think that’s the thing that attracts people.”

La Casa will be open Monday through Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m, with exceptions on Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. “I definitely encourage students to come in here . . . you can hangout, but you can also do your homework and it’s so comfortable,” Mendoza said.