When master's student Samantha Rubio first arrived at UNC, she struggled to find a Latino group. She grew up in Peru and identifies as a Hispanic.
“Despite me saying on repeated occasions that I identified as Latin, no one from the University really helped me find other Latin people. So that was really hard for me, especially the first couple of months not really having anyone from my own culture around me,” Rubio said.
Rubio searched for eight months before finding the Latine Graduate and Professional Student Association (LGPSA) through a friend.
She said her time at the University, specifically as a member of an underrepresented community, has been challenging because she felt very alone, but has felt a stronger sense of belonging since she found the LGPSA.
The LGPSA is a student-run organization for students who identify as or are in support of Latin American and Hispanic people attending the University. The club seeks to "foster a sense of community and belonging" for these students.
“Our group is a social group, but also we are trying to feel like a home,” LGPSA co-president Daniel Vélez said.
Vélez and Rubio agreed that one of the most important aspects of the group is the ability to speak in Spanish to one another. English is not the first language of many of the LGPSA members, and Vélez said that it can be overwhelming at times to find the right words in daily University activities.
LGPSA became an official student organization in the spring of 2022 and recruited its first members that fall. Before then, the community functioned as a smaller group called La Familia. The student organization has now grown to include over 90 members.
Paz Cook, LGPSA co-president, is pursuing a Ph.D. in epidemiology and is an international student from Chile. She was a part of La Familia and became involved with LGPSA in the spring of 2022.