Commuter, Latina, and activist: Alexa Valdez’s story

CHRISTI SESSA

Staff Writer

chsessa@goshen.edu

 

Alexa Valdez has become quite the prominent figure on campus as a third year social work major. As one of the leaders of Latino Student Union, or LSU, she has grown to become a leading voice in the campus Latino community.

“I am in charge of social media [for LSU],” Valdez said. “I write Facebook posts, announcements in the communicator and emails about what’s going on and what we are planning.”

Valdez, a Goshen local, chose GC for a variety of reasons. She was involved in college activities as a child and a member of the children’s choirs in the Community School of the Arts, making both the college and Goshen an important part of home. Additionally, the closeness to her home allowed her to be able to commute and was ultimately the deciding factor.

As a commuter student, Valdez said there can be some difficulties. “It’s kind of hard to know what’s going on on campus sometimes,” she said. “My first year, they didn’t put stuff up in the commuter lounge. I didn’t even know what Kick-Off was.”

From first-hand experience, Valdez can speak to the disparity between commuter students and on-campus students.

“There is a definite divide,” Valdez says. “I think it’s because people think of GC as a college where everyone lives on campus and that isn’t the case anymore, especially in the last few years.”

As a leader in LSU, Valdez is heavily involved with the Latino community on campus and the activism that entails. Valdez has spent her college years observing the walls that exist on this campus, particularly the “MennoWall.” Her strong involvement in LSU partially comes from these divisions on campus.

“I was uncomfortable my first year because I was not white and not Mennonite, and a commuter,” Valdez said. “I wanted to be there for first years who were going through that too. I know a lot of people who were here when I started and aren’t here anymore because they felt uncomfortable.”

When it comes to the activism part of her work, Valdez says that a lot of factors influence her activism. Her social work major speaks to her interest in helping others, and is influenced by her focus on activism.

“I’d always wanted to do activism but I never had the platform to do it,” she said. “Being a part of LSU is helpful because people are able to contact you.”

One of her favorite things she has done so far while at GC was last semester’s LSU-led convocation. At this convo, Valdez shared her experience with undocumented immigrants. She explained that while she herself is a US citizen born in this country, her father and husband are not. That wasn’t the original plan, though.

“We had planned this super intricate thing,” she said. “But then Richard Aguirre was all, ‘just talk about your stories’ and we went with it. Nearly all of the people who spoke were born in this country but would be directly affected by immigration policy in general and it was great to talk about that [at convocation].”

After college, Valdez plans to continue working in immigration and Latino activism.

“I would like to work at a nonprofit,” she said, “but I need to pay off loans. I can see myself taking a government job to work off my loans and then being poor and happy and helping people.”

In this same vein, she has some advice for the Latino students on campus:

“Get involved in as much as possible. There are always other Latino students who are super happy to be there for you. You are good enough to be here and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not.”

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