ALAS brings guidance, understanding to Latinx community on campus

Xanayra Marin-Lopez, Reporter

As a Latinx undergraduate student, María Hofman said she faced challenges like changing her major twice, finding her own academic funding and feeling in the dark about campus resources at App State.

It wasn’t until Hofman’s senior year that she found support in Latinx instructors after building cultural connections with her peers. Spanish-speaking staff gave her the space to speak her native language, despite always learning in the classroom through English.

“My hermanas helped me understand what to expect socially, and the group of multicultural friends I made helped me grow as a person,” Hofman said.

Hofman said campus resources lacked acceptance of her full identity as a female, Latina member of the LGBTQIA+ community. Because of this, she loaded her schedule and completed her undergraduate degree in three years.

Hofman started working at App State three years ago and quickly found her campus “familia” in APP Unidos, the Latinx faculty and staff association. The group promotes and supports Latinx-affiliated student groups on campus and in Boone. 

She entered the doctoral program in educational leadership in 2018. As the only Latina in the program, Hofman felt saddened that many of the same struggles she had as an undergraduate student recurred in her graduate studies.

It was there that Hofman decided that for Latinas to affirm their identities, they needed a space to examine how identities shape distinct experiences.

She met with Latinx leaders in the Hispanic Student Association and Student Government Association to ask about their experiences and if there was a setting on campus she could support that met the needs of a Latina space for encouragement.

After meeting with the organizations, Hofman realized there wasn’t a space, so she created one. 

The Appalachian Latina Student mentorship program is designed to affirm Latinx culture and the impact of holding a female identity on a students’ life and college experience.

The program will be introduced this semester with Latinx women and gender-queer students in mind. 

The group will meet bi-weekly, alternating between dialogue and development workshops. In between sessions, students and mentors meet for “mentora-citas,” — “citas” meaning appointments in Spanish and “mentora” meaning mentor. Each student meets with their “mentora” monthly to work on individual goals about personal development, college and more. 

For its pilot semester this spring, there are seven mentors and 20 students. According to its constitution, ALAS members are “allies of or hold affinity to the intersectionality of female/gender-queer and Latinx/Hispanic/Latin Americans.”

With only 22 Latinx faculty and staff at App State, Hofman said this can be used to her advantage.

“I’m looking to explore, for future semesters, different mentorship models with the current group to see how we can prepare to accommodate more members,” Hofman said.

Hofman said she hopes the program can empower Latina women and is devoted to offering Latinx students resources for success.

“I want them to feel confident in their whole selves,” Hofman said. “I hope they can take what they learn and shine bright in their communities, thriving in their spaces.”

Members will receive training in topics of equity, allyship and campus resources. ALAS has funding from the Office of Diversity & Inclusion to send 10 students to the Southeastern Latinx Student Leadership Conference at Western Carolina University from April 3-5. They are seeking more funding to send an additional 10 students. 

ALAS meets every other Monday as a group. Meetings are from 4:30-5:30 p.m on the second floor Plemmons Student Union in the HSA room located in Club Hub.