Around 20 to 25 freshmen participated in El Centro’s fifth annual Somos Ram Leadership Retreat to form connections to other CSU students and faculty at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park this past weekend.
“I learned that I have a lot of friends at El Centro and friendship is really important to me as a person. To really rejuvenate myself and motivate myself and my studies,” said Matthew Barney, a freshman biomedical and electrical engineer double major as CSU. “I would say it exceeded my expectations.”
The students were chosen after an application process consisting of two short essay questions: ‘why should you be chosen to join this retreat and what does leadership mean to you?’ Over the course of two days, the freshmen participants explored their culture, enhanced leadership skills and made new friends.
“I know as a freshman it can be kind of hard to make those connections on campus. But this is a great way to meet a group of 20 people and then at the end it’s like a family,” said Karla Lerma, 21, a junior social work and Spanish double major. “My freshmen year I came back with a lot of friends, a lot of new people that I had met and we connected on a deeper level.”
Lerma has been has been involved in El Centro since her freshmen year and is currently a facilitator.
“I met most of my friends here and I just love interacting with people every day,” she said.
According to those interviewed, El Centro’s Somos Ram Leadership Retreat has lasting results and a reliable retention rate.
“I participated in it my freshman year and then the last two years I’ve been a facilitator for the retreat,” said Resource Academic Mentor David Gonzales, an environmental health major at CSU. “It’s cool how you see a group of people that maybe know each other, that see each other and when they come out of the retreat they’re best friends. They’re always talking to each other.”
El Centro is one of the seven diversity offices at CSU. The office is open to provide students with the support that they need to succeed and feel comfortable.
“We’ve seen that more than anything, the need has continued as the years have gone by just because it is 14 percent ethnic minorities that come to CSU. Out of that, only seven percent are Latinas-Latinos which is 2,000 students out of what 28,000 students,” said Brandy Salazar, the program coordinator of El Centro and CSU graduate. “El Centro is providing that home-away-from-home for students who identify as Latino-Latina and also students who don’t who want to feel that cultural connection and feeling like they have a place to call their own.”
While El Centro is geared toward creating a safe-haven for people of Latina and Latino ethnicity, it is not exclusive and anyone interested can join.
“You can either come in here and be really social, talk to everyone, join our different volunteer opportunities, our leadership retreats like the Somos Rams or sororities and fraternities that work through our office. Or you can come in here just sit at a computer do your homework and that’s it,” Salazar said. “You can make it whatever you want to make it. It’s just whatever makes the student feel comfortable and whatever works for them is what we want them to do. Anyone is welcome.”