¡Conectémonos En Ecu! | Eastern North Carolina Now | Connecting ECU’s Hispanic students with each other and university opportunities

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    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Rich Klindworth.

¡Conectémonos en ECU! included prospective Hispanic high school students from Beaufort and Greene Counties. Different East Carolina University programs had tables to inform both prospective and current ECU students of the opportunities they might not have known about. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

    Serena Gonzalez had no idea ¡Conectémonos en ECU! was created because of her. Last winter, the Class of 2023 psychology major and chapter president of the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin sorority was asked about her thoughts on East Carolina University's student body having more than 2,000 Hispanic students. Her reaction, "Where?"

    At ECU, Hispanic students make up 8% of the student body but depending on where students live and have classes, they might not see or interact with many of their peers.

    ECU officials decided to create a new event, ¡Conectémonos en ECU!, which translates to "Let's connect at ECU." The event on Sept. 22 was designed to break down silos and show students, faculty and staff the growing ECU Hispanic community, and connect Hispanic students with each other and various ECU organizations.

    "I did not realize that by me expressing my thoughts, someone would take action to work on my behalf," Gonzalez said at the event. "It feels empowering that your voice is heard."

    To help showcase ECU's growing Hispanic community, Hispanic students and their parents from Beaufort Early College High School and Greene Central High School were also invited to Conectémonos. ECU faculty and staff from across campus set up tables to answer any questions the students and their parents had about college and ECU.

    "My hope is that the visiting Latine high school students and their families saw that ECU is a place for them and their children in the future," said Gabriela Lemus, interim assistant director for the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center (LWCC).

    ¡Conectémonos en ECU! was sponsored by the LWCC and ECU's Office for Equity and Diversity. Lemus, who is Mexican, is hopeful the connections made during this event will help ECU students as they work toward graduation.

    "Although the Hispanic/Latine/x community is diverse in our beliefs, experiences or even languages, there are some factors that always seem to unite us," she said. "The focus on family, perseverance, community and excellence were exemplified by this celebration."

    ¡Conectémonos en ECU! was originally planned on the student center lawn outside of the LWCC. However, a 15-minute downpour sent all involved running inside. Organizers quickly pivoted to move the event inside the student center. After the Conectémonos participants got their complimentary food, they listened to several guest speakers and took advantage of talking to members of different ECU organizations and departments that lined the entryway.

    "We were still able to provide the parents and high school students, as well as ECU students, with a great event of food, fun music, and most importantly - resources," said Katherine Romero-Trejo, who emceed the event.

    Romero-Trejo is a public health major and president of ECU's Latino Student Union. She and others spoke to those in attendance in both English and Spanish. ECU Provost Dr. Robin Coger also presented on the growing ECU Hispanic community.

    "We made some great connections tonight and I hope this is just the beginning," Gonzalez added.
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