Muchin College Prep’s Latine/x Student Alliance Grows as a Space for Celebrating Identity

There are two images in this photo collage. The larger photo on the left is a shot of Muchin College Prep's front desk. The smaller photo on the right is a shot of Muchin's colorful Dia de los Muertos ofrenda for the 2023 school year.
Published On: December 13th, 2023Categories: 2023, Campus Life, Equity at Noble, Muchin College Prep, Staff, Students

When Jocelyn Murillo and Gloria Ponce, two staff members at Muchin College Prep, were asked to lead the Latine/x Scholar Alliance (LSA) affinity group at their campus last year, they were hesitant. Thoughts spiraled through their heads as imposter syndrome set in— “Am I too young? Who am I to lead this group? How can I lead this group while I am still learning so much about my own identities?”

Despite some of their fears, Murillo and Ponce decided to take on the challenge because they wanted there to be a safe space on campus for Latine/x students to explore their identities—and they felt like they had the passion and ideas to make that space a reality.

A photo of Jocelyn Murillo with her college graduation robes on.

Jocelyn Murillo

A photo of Gloria Ponce in front of Lake Michigan and the Chicago downtown city skyline.

Gloria Ponce

“I wanted this space to be a place where our scholars aren’t embarrassed to be who they are, to be their authentic selves,” Murillo said. Both her and Ponce emphasized how they wanted the LSA to be a space where students can feel pride in their Latine/x identity, regardless of how much they have engaged in Latine/x culture.

“Latine/x Scholar Alliance is about being inclusive. It is about meeting one where they are at in their journey of identity exploration,” Murillo said, “We want our scholars to feel safe enough to explore—and to never feel that they are not Latine/x enough.”

Ponce added, “As the adults in this space, we’re expected to know a lot about our identity. However, we always aim to be authentic and truthful. We show our scholars that we’re not perfect and don’t know everything, either. What’s real is that we’re also learning more about ourselves.”

With these goals in mind, Murillo and Ponce set up the affinity group to promote conversation and learning about Latine/x identities and culture—and the group has been flourishing as a result. This year, the LSA doubled its number of active members and has become a valued space for Latine/x students.

“I like being surrounded by people who are of a similar ethnicity to me,” Maria F, a student member, said, “It’s beautiful to see people of the same ethnicity come together and show a vulnerable and true aspect of themselves. Sometimes, people don’t feel comfortable being that version of themselves during class or throughout the school day, but they do in that space. I really enjoy that.”

Sophomore Angie M added, “This group has helped me become more social with other people at our school, and I appreciate that.”

Angie said that she also “appreciates this affinity group as a space to learn more about their culture.” She has been doing Mexican folklórico outside of school for three years and saw Muchin’s Latine/x Scholar Alliance as a chance to connect with Latine/x people at Muchin and continue to learn more aspects of her culture.

Latine/X Hispanic Heritage Month event calendar. The calendar is decorated with flowers, patterns, and bright colors.

The group planned several events for Latine/x Hispanic Heritage Month this year.

Scholars and staff in the group meet every other Monday to start their week off together.

(They meet bi-weekly because they want to honor the fact that while scholars are Latine/x Scholar Alliance members, they are also students—they go to office hours, play sports, participate in other enrichments, and live personal lives—and they have many other identities to explore.)

The ultimate goal of the affinity group is to build community, both inside the group and with the broader school community. At each meeting, scholars share how they live out their culture and discuss ways to share their cultures with others. One main way the group has done this is by planning events and making decorations to celebrate Latine/x culture across the campus.

“Scholars have full freedom to advocate for what they want to talk about, do, and promote throughout the school,” Maria said, “We mainly discuss ways that we can embrace our culture at Muchin and bring others, who may not celebrate the same cultural things, into our celebrations.”

So far this year, the LSA planned a beautiful Latine/x Heritage Month. They created amazing bulletin boards around the entire building, decorated the hallways and common spaces, planned a month full of celebratory events, and spearheaded the Latine/x Heritage Month assembly. They also made paper flores de cempasúchiles (marigolds) for Dia de Los Muertos and built a beautiful ofrenda with them to memorialize former Mountain Lions who passed away. The ofrenda sits right at the front of the school—a beautiful reminder to our school community of their lives and memories.

Ofrenda that is decorated with skulls, flowers, and pictures of loved ones.

Latine/X student alliance group built a beautiful ofrenda to memorialize former Mountain Lions who passed away.

By the end of this year, Murillo and Ponce hope to make the LSA fully scholar-led. They want their scholars to feel empowered to run this space and other spaces focused on equity, connectedness, and safety.

“What I love most about being a part of this group at Muchin is that we, as scholars, get to make all of the big decisions about what we get to do in the group. It helps me practice self-advocacy and how to work together with others well,” Esmeralda G, a junior and leader of the group, said.

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In this image collage, there are two photos. The one on the left is of Jeylin, a student at UIC College Prep. The one on the right is of Carrie Spitz, a principal at UIC College Prep.Noble Schools Principal and Student Recognized by Illinois Network of Charter Schools
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