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Sunday, July 14, 2024

UC Davis Center for Chicanx Latinx Academic Success launches inaugural Sí Se Puede Institute

The one-day seminar aimed to help students on academic probation or subject to dismissal


By RIVERS STOUT — campus@theaggie.org 


            On Jan. 7, the Center for Chicanx Latinx Academic Success, also known as El Centro, held its inaugural Sí Sue Puede Success Institute. This one-day event served to aid students who are experiencing academic probation or are subject to dismissal and want to improve their academic success. 

     “The whole purpose [of Sí Se Puede] is to provide a support system for Chicanx [and] Latinx self-identified students through the process of navigating probation and dismissal,” Rodrigo Bonilla, director of El Centro, said. “When I took over as director, I noticed a couple of trends. One of those trends was that there’s an alarming rate of students who identify as Chicanx [or] Latinx who were facing probation and dismissal, at the beginning of winter quarter specifically.”

            The institute itself was a one-time event for this academic year, but Bonilla said that El Centro offers other forms of support during the entire year through seminars and a variety of in-house services.

            “At first, I developed a ‘subject to dismissal’ seminar,” Bonilla said. “Through this seminar, I realized the extent of making this available, helping students understand the policies, the resources available to them [and] helping them understand how to successfully be able to navigate this process. I wanted to make it available to more students, [and] this is why the Sí Se Puede Institute happened. In the seminar, I’m limited to 15 to 20 students. In the [event], we had about 60 students present.”

Events such as seminars or the institute are great opportunities for students to become connected to the resources that El Centro offers, according to Bonilla. 

            “We focus a lot on building community, so the entry point might be the seminar or the institute, but that allows our students to know that this is a place that supports them throughout their entire undergraduate experience,” Bonilla said. “Even though those are the entry points to them coming here, that exposes them to the variety of services that we offer, and allows them to continue returning for those services we offer.”

Specifically, Bonilla pointed out that the center offers academic tutoring services, writing assistance, study and learning strategies and resources to mental health services and Latinx-identified therapists. El Centro also collaborates with the Internship and Career Center to help students navigate internships and build their resumes. 

Ultimately, the main goal of Sí Se Puede was to destigmatize what it means to be on academic probation or subject to dismissal. 

“I think that we don’t normalize it enough,” Bonilla said. “The reality is that a lot of our students face it at some point, but it becomes this taboo topic [that] nobody wants to talk about. We started the institute to reframe this. [By] naming it Sí Se Puede, we are reframing it itself because we are saying, ‘Yes we can.’”

Bonilla then went into the benefits of holding an event as large as this one on the topic. 

“When you see a room of 60 other students, you think, ‘It’s not just me,’” Bonilla said. “Academic probation or [being] subject to dismissal should not be an identity students carry with shame, and that [it’s in] any way telling of their capacity to perform academically.”

When asked if this is an issue specifically facing the Latinx student population, Bonilla disclosed that while El Centro does not have access to the figures for all ethnicities, he does believe that underrepresented communities are disproportionately impacted. 

“We have 7,600-7,800 [Latinx] students; out of those, 1,000 of them are on probation and dismissal every quarter,” Bonilla said. “The reality is some of them just may not have access to the support to rethink the way they study or they might not even have the same level of college prep or be able to access resources.”

Bonilla’s goal is for the ideas of Sí Se Puede to be implemented institutionally to better help Latinx students navigate the college process. He also emphasized that students of any standing could join the culturally inclusive space, even if they only wanted to improve their academic habits and weren’t necessarily at risk of dismissal. 

“We had a variety of folks from a variety of identities and academic standings come in,” Bonilla said. “We opened our invitation to everybody because our goal is to help as many people as possible.”

            Bonilla said that while they wish to be able to assist more students, El Centro has only scratched the surface of the issue. The reality is that they alone do not have the capacity to aid every student as they only have three career staff. They will continue to offer Sí Se Puede in future years and will have seminars available throughout the academic year. 


Written by: Rivers Stout — campus@theaggie.org 



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