A new school year brings many opportunities to get involved on campus and with more than 300 clubs and organizations, everyone can find a way to participate.

One such organization is La Union, a program offered at the Cesar E. Chavez Center for Higher Education. It offers many leadership opportunities through different workshops and educational programs.

There are 16 clubs and organizations that take part in La Union, each with its own history and purpose.

Flags from Latin American countries festoon the César E. Chávez Center for Higher Education, which houses all 16 clubs and organizations in La Union. (Jacqueline Ayala | The Poly Post)

Even though La Union was originally intended to help students who come from Chicano and Latino roots, everyone is welcome to go and learn about the different opportunities to learn to become a leader in one’s community.

The Spanish Language Association (SLA) and Alpha Pi Sigma (APS) are a few of the organizations that are part of La Union.

Established in 2006 by Spanish Professor Isabel Bustamante, the Spanish Language Association was intended to change the outlook of the Spanish language.

It took a lot to bring the SLA to life, but members continue working hard to create more awareness about the organization.

Third year sociology student Mariam Ruiz was a part of the SLA her freshman year.

She said she enjoyed being in the club because she was able to meet people who she is now close with.

Every meeting was based on a specific lecture regarding different Spanish cultures, she said.

“We planned different events, my favorite being Dia de Los Muertos,” Ruiz said. “We spent the whole day setting up an altar, painted our faces and afterwards enjoyed the different activities there were with the people in the club.”

Its members are mainly of Mexican descent, so events are also based on Mexican culture. This isn’t to say that only Mexicans can or should join.

SLA and other clubs that are part of La Union are open to anyone who either wants to learn about the Spanish language or wants to simply practice Spanish.

Fifth year hospitality management student Sandra Silva Aguilar is currently SLA’s treasurer.

Since her first year, she said she was very active and decided to take on an executive board position.

“I started off as a general member and the first year I joined I was the most active member of that year,” Aguilar said.

Since then, Aguilar has been the club’s secretary, president and now treasurer.

Aguilar said the club will be trying out different things this year to help keep it growing including tutoring during general meetings, sponsoring events and discussions on Latin American issues and promoting more community service involvement.

Like all the organizations that are part of “La Union,” Aguilar said the SLA wants to assure that it is not “Mexican Club.”

Its members want to break any stereotypes students may have about the Spanish language. They seek to promote cultural diversity and help members embrace their cultures.

There are many different countries around the world that speak Spanish and the SLA wants to quash the common stereotype that those who speak Spanish are Mexican, Aguilar said.

The SLA will be participating in the club fairs on Aug. 22 and 24.

Alpha Pi Sigma is another longtime organization on campus that offers leadership opportunities, especially for Latina women on campus.

Marcella C. Arias, Renee A. Mendoza, and Obdulia Viramontes created Alpha Pi Sigma in 1996, creating the Beta chapter on campus, six years after the founding chapter began at San Diego State University.

APS encourages academic excellence with study groups, tutoring and mentoring. Latina women can also attain leadership and networking skills to help better serve the organization and the community at large.

Each year APS hosts the annual Adelitas Conference and Xicano Latino Youth Leadership Conference (XLYLC) to promote higher education, cultural pride, and self-worth for high school students.

Even though APS identifies itself as a Latina-based sorority, it does not discriminate against any ethnic group and welcomes all women who are interested.

Though all the organizations in La Union started at different time periods and have different purposes, they all come together to show unity and to learn from one another.

Each has different opportunities for students to grow and learn the skills needed to succeed.

Students can ask questions about La Union by visiting the CECCHE or by following them on Instagram @cesarechavezctr.

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