Valpo is home to a number of cultural organizations on campus, one of which is LatinX in Valparaiso for Excellence (LIVE). According to valpo.edu, LIVE “strives to provide cultural, academic and social support to LatinX/Hispanic students.” It celebrates cultural awareness and seeks to provide an inclusive space on campus.
According to LIVE President Cecelia Frankewich, LIVE has not only taught her organization and leadership skills but how to create relationships with people who are different, as well as people who are just like her.
“I've been a part of LIVE since my freshman year at Valpo,” Frankewich said. “I started as a general member and then I held the position of activities coordinator and then Vice President and I really enjoyed my time in LIVE.”
According to Activities Coordinator Jacky Delgado, LIVE provided a place for her to be with people like her on campus at a time during her freshman year when she needed it. It has given her a community and a place to learn and grow as a leader.
“It kind of came into my life in a moment where I needed a place where there were people like me on campus,” Delgado said. “Honestly it was to the point where I was debating if I want to stay here or not, and really going to like live meetings and meeting a bunch of new people and being able to have that space where I didn't feel so alone on campus was a really good thing for me.”
Both Frankewich and Delgado first learned about LIVE through the activities fair in their freshman years, Delgado with additional encouragement from a Spanish professor. Both students were initially afraid of going outside of their comfort zones to join LIVE, though Frankewich says that the group welcomed her in and made her feel like part of the group.
“At first it was a little scary just because all of my friends were like, white, like they weren't LatinX. And so I would go to these meetings alone. And you know, as a freshman, that was scary for me,” Delgado said. “I didn't want to sit at a meeting alone and not know anyone and you know, be the weird person. But if there's one thing that I applaud myself for freshman year [is] getting out of my comfort zone and sticking to going to those meetings.”
Frankewich recalls a similar situation where she would often attend meetings her first year alone. According to Frankewich, LIVE strives to make both new and old members sure that they know it’s a space they can come to.
“I was kind of on and off, because I was, you know, getting used to college. I wanted to do a student presentation [and] they invited me in to lead a discussion,” Frankewich said. “And honestly, after that I just stayed committed to LIVE and continued. They welcomed me in and made me feel like a part of the group.”
Delgado added that she recalls a similar experience where after a group activity other LIVE members helped her feel accepted in the group.
“Even though I didn't know anyone they were talking to me like I was one of their oldest friends and then afterwards, they were like, ‘hey, do you want to go get dinner?’” Delgado said. “They are very welcoming. Like they make you feel accepted right away.”
In typical years, LIVE would hold general meetings bi-weekly, however under the circumstances of COVID-19 these meetings are currently less frequent. COVID-19 precautions and related rules have introduced new challenges for the group during the pandemic, making a few of their normal events impossible to hold. However they still plan to attempt to hold some of their key events under the new regulations.
“There's a lot of planning that goes into these meetings. So planning and not being certain what's actually going to happen has had a big effect on us,” Frankewich said. “But we are still definitely shooting to do our Hispanic Heritage Month dinner, which will be in October. That is an annual dinner we've always been doing, a big event.”
LIVE also typically holds events where they partner with other groups in the Office of Multicultural Programs (OMP), such as one in the past where they had a “cookoff” potluck with the other organizations.
“Sometimes it can be hard, where as an organization, we're like the LatinX group. There's the Black Student Organization, there's AAPIC. You feel like yeah, you have your own group now but it's still separated in a way. So when we all come together it's like we're really instilling that huge sense of community,” Delgado said.
Frankewich encourages students who are interested in LIVE to push themselves to come to the meetings and find out more about it.
“Even though it's gonna seem a little scary at first, because you know, you might not know anybody and it might all be new faces, come to the meetings, push yourself...just come out and meet us,” Frankewich said. “We want new members, we want people to keep the legacy of LIVE going, to fulfill leadership positions and to gain the things that Jacky and I have both gained from LIVE.”
Delgado adds that everyone is welcome, even if they are not part of the LatinX community.
“A common misconception is sometimes that you have to be LatinX, you have to be black, or you have to be of Asian culture in order to join these groups,” Delgado said. “And that's not true. We want people to come and to learn as much as they can about our culture.”