The college experience provides many opportunities for students to meet new people, gain leadership experience, and pursue a successful career. Regardless of your major, career goals or interests, chances are you will find others who share them in a college organization. However this “college experience” seems to be out of reach for many Latinas. First generation college bound Latinas don’t often have the proper support systems in place to gain access to college, and are often adversely affected by social obstacles and financial constraints that may prevent them from fully exploring the college experience. Membership in Latina sororities instantly provides a support system for Latinas, uniting them not only by their cultural identities, but also by the unique obstacles that they face as Latina students.
The recent events surrounding Penn State’s and Baylor University’ students negatively stereotyping Latinos serves to emphasize an unspoken othering of Latinos in higher education social organizations. Latinas’ de facto exclusion from campus social organizations may contribute to a long-term building of an invisible glass ceiling, keeping Latinas from benefiting from the opportunities for growth, support and networking that come with participation in school organizations. It is clear that our young Latinas, especially first generation college bound Latinas, who are attending college need a support group that they can identity with and validate that they, too, are entitled to the American dream and take their rightful place at the table.
This is why Latina sororities are very beneficial to join. Dr. Juan Guardia chair of N.A.L.F.O. (National organization of Latino Sororities and Fraternities) states, “I believe that for many Latina students, especially first-generation college students, a sorority provides a home away from home during and after their collegiate career. Specifically, the sorority provides these women academic development and accountability, community service and most importantly hermandad, sisterhood. In addition, sorority alumnae serve as role models for these women to look up to.” The development of such sisterhood is composed of diverse women committed to the empowerment of women and the Latin American community. They do this by providing leadership development, academic enrichment programs, community service and activities geared towards the appreciation, promotion and preservation of Latinas’ surrounding communities.
Latina sororities provide a cultural identity that was not previously represented through traditionally “white” institutions/organizations. By joining the Greek systems, Latinas have profited twofold by having an experience in common with non-minority peers, yet making that experience unique to their culture. The national boards of such Latino/a organizations like N.A.L.F.O. often view college as a place for discovery and cultural fostering of new movements that help create bridges for underserved communities. A Latina sorority’s mission is to develop women leaders and create innovative forums for Latina’s to give back to the community. Memberships in such organizations act as a catalyst for empowering Latinas to carry their cultural and educational voyage into their professional lives, and in the process, give a voice to themselves so that they can make a difference in their communities, while also paving the way for others to follow in their footsteps.