There are currently 54 official members of Asociación de Estudiantes Latinos, an organization that increases awareness of Latinx-specific issues and heritage at Temple. But when the group started in 1994, there were only five or six.
Ronald Webb, a Latin American Studies professor and AdEL’s faculty adviser, said the organization was started by a few Latinx students who created a place to discuss their heritage and experiences.
AdEL continues to celebrate Latinx culture and serves as a gateway for students who may not feel “Latino enough” to engage with the community. It enables students who might not consider themselves Latinx — because they have distant ancestry or do not speak Spanish — to reconnect with the community, Webb said.
“I see students all the time who sort of reconnect with their past when before, they didn’t necessarily consider themselves to be Latino, or maybe they’re mixed,” Webb said.
Less than 7 percent of undergraduate students are Hispanic or Latinx, according to the 2017-18 Temple University Fact Book. The population is smaller than other minority groups, like African-American students, who make up 12.6 percent of that population, and Asian students, who account for 11.6 percent.
“We have that community in this organization,” said Gail Vivar, a senior journalism major and AdEL’s director of external communication. “People feel that they’re welcome with people who look like us, understand our struggles and just want to help each other out.”
The organization educates allies about Latinx heritage and issues surrounding the Latinx community. The organization typically meets on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. to discuss themes like being Latinx and mental health.
Webb, who has been AdEL’s faculty adviser since 2006, said AdEL’s membership ebbs and flows.
“There have been times where there were only four or five active members,” he added.
Jennylee Ramos was the president of AdEL in 2016 when she was a senior at Temple. She joined the organization as a freshman and worked her way up through the ranks as treasurer and vice president. Ramos is now a Temple employee and works as the assistant director for programs and marketing in the Office of Student Activities.
In Fall 2012, Hispanic and Latinx students accounted for less than 5 percent of the university’s population.
She said she thinks more Latinx students enrolled in the university after Temple stopped requiring students to submit standardized test scores, like the SAT and ACT, for students who enrolled in 2015.
Nationally, more Hispanic and Latinx people are attaining postsecondary degrees. According to a May 2017 Department of Education report, 27 percent of Hispanic and Latinx Americans aged 25-29 have an associate degree or higher, up from 15 percent in 2000.
Admissions created several Latinx-specific programs this year, Ramos said. Along with AdEL, students can join Temple’s chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and Association of Latino Professionals for America.
Jesus Alvarado, a senior neuroscience major and the current president of AdEL, said the cost of tuition is a barrier that can prevent some Latinx students from enrolling at Temple.
AdEL is considering using money from fundraisers — like churro and quesadilla sales — toward a financial scholarship for a local Latinx student to attend Temple, Alvarado added.
“Temple tries to do what it can for minorities and those who are looking for support on campus, but sometimes students just don’t know who to go to,” he added. “If they want to call themselves a diverse university, [Temple] should also take on the responsibility of helping students find this information. That is where diversity could really have a chance to grow.”
Editor’s note: Gail Vivar was a freelance reporter for The Temple News. She took no part in the reporting or editing of this story.