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Alumni visit campus for the closing event of Hispanic Heritage Month

Panelists+Daniel+Aguilar%2C+Jasmine+Jetton-Gonzales%2C+Kerry+Portillo-Lopez%2C+Arceli+Ariza%2C+Cynthia+Rodriguez-Garcia+discuss+the+Latinx+experience
Panelists Daniel Aguilar, Jasmine Jetton-Gonzales, Kerry Portillo-Lopez, Arceli Ariza, Cynthia Rodriguez-Garcia discuss the Latinx experience

Panelists Daniel Aguilar, Jasmine Jetton-Gonzales, Kerry Portillo-Lopez, Arceli Ariza, Cynthia Rodriguez-Garcia discuss the Latinx experience

Megan Swett

Megan Swett

Panelists Daniel Aguilar, Jasmine Jetton-Gonzales, Kerry Portillo-Lopez, Arceli Ariza, Cynthia Rodriguez-Garcia discuss the Latinx experience

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Various Latnix UIS Alumni came back to campus on Saturday morning to have brunch and host a panel for current students. The event, hosted by the Diversity Center, was one of the final events for the Hispanic Heritage Month lineup.

Students showed up to the Lincoln Residence Hall Great Room at 10 a.m. Saturday morning, where they caught up with their old friends and peers. Brunch was served and enjoyed alongside conversation, which led into the panel discussion for the last hour of the event.

The panelists–Daniel Aguilar, Jasmine Jetton-Gonzales, Kerry Portillo-Lopez, Arceli Ariza, Cynthia Rodriguez-Garcia–talked about life after graduation. Topics included finding work, working while Latnix, furthering education, and more.

Their experiences varied. Aguilar, for example, applied to “30 plus jobs,” whereas Portillo-Lopez and Ariza applied to only a few. Jetton-Gonzales changed her career path just a few months after graduating.

Originally aiming for a job in child advocacy, Gonzalez shifted her focus after gaining experience in the field.

“I was looking for jobs in domestic violence shelters,” she said. “It was beyond emotionally draining. It was intense; and I was only working there part time.”

She decided to apply to job in the Illinois Students Assistant Commission (ISAC), which helps students plan for college.

Aguilar shares a similar experience. While he focused on political science in his time as an undergrad and graduate student, he ending up taking a job in higher education.

“For me, I wanted to be an immigration lawyer. That was the plan,” he said. “Every single time I was in the interview process [for higher education], the question always came up, ‘You’re studying political science, why are you doing this?’ As if I’m the weird one.”

However, Aguilar recalled often joking about going into higher education while he was in school, and he credits that openness to helping him make the career shift.

“Do not feel bad if the degree that you are currently pursuing is not what you’ll be doing for the rest of your life,” he said. “It’s okay if you change your mind.”

“And it’s okay if it’s your senior year in college and you change your mind,” Jetton-Gonzales added. “That’s what freaked me out the most. So it’s okay if it’s nearly the day of graduation and you decide ‘Yeah, no.’”

Different majors aren’t the only things that set the panelists apart from their co-workers. Each panelist is Latnix, which notably impacts their working lives.

For Rodriguez-Garcia, it helps her, as she works with a population that is “80 percent Latino.” Rodriguez-Garcia currently works at a family care center, as well as a rehabilitation center.

“For me, making the client feel comfortable, like we’re all the same, that I don’t feel like I’m better than anyone, [is important],” she said. “I think you can relate on a lot of issues, and that they feel comfortable talking about things, like the issue with DACA. They feel like they’re in a safe zone.”

For others, their ethnicity is notably sets them apart at work.

“It’s kind of a challenge,” Aguilar said. “It’s kind of a challenge when you are the only one there. For me, I’m the only Latino, I’m the only man of color sitting at the table.”

Jetton-Garcia added, “It’s okay to be the only one at the table. You should be so proud of yourself to be there. It is so intimidating, but … being different is okay.”

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Award winning, student run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield..
Alumni visit campus for the closing event of Hispanic Heritage Month