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Who We Are

Our Mission
Para La Familia provides resources and support systems for Spanish speaking parents. We recognize the need to create a space in the university for those parents who feel most comfortable communicating in Spanish. We aspire to accomplish this goal by developing programs and initiatives that diminish the language and cultural barriers, a need that is strongly expressed by students and parents.

Although our events are student-run, we collaborate with a variety of individuals and offices within the University.

Para La Familia will not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or class.

Our Beliefs

  • We believe that family involvement positively affects student retention, achievement, and quality of student life.

  • We believe that our events serve the university’s efforts to increase and maintain diversity within the Student body.

  • Such efforts will create a stronger relationship between parents, the university, and students, birthing further benefits for all parties.

Our Goals

  1. Develop Spanish language events that break the cultural barriers for Spanish speaking families.

  2. Work with faculty, staff and administration to promote linguistic awareness.

  3. Create a relationship between Latino student families and the university that will encourage parental involvement and  aid the family in supporting their child.

Structure of the Organization :

Although Para La Familia is primarily student-run, we are grateful for the support we receive from our Advisory Board.  These administrators and staff members meet with us on a regular basis to discuss strategies for raising awareness about our organization, improving fundraising, and organizing events.  Our Advisory Board brings important insight and guidance to the organization.

Advisory Board:
Marina Melendez, Dean of the Class of 2010
Migdalia Pinkney, Office of Community Partnerships
Meg Zocco, Director of Parent Programs
Dana Coffin, Office of Parent Programs
Sonia Mañjon, Vice President for Diversity and Strategic Partnerships
Elisa Del Valle, Assistant Director of Student Activities and Leadership Development
Alex Cabal, Area Coordinator, Office of Residential Life                                                    Liliana Carrasquillo, Residential Operations Coordinator

Para La Familia also has a core of involved student members who serve as the primary organizers.  The purpose of structuring the group this way is to diffuse responsibilities among a small group of individuals with diverse skills and interests. We also depend on general members and volunteers to execute our events and input new ideas.

Core members of the 2009-2010 Academic Year:

Miguel Ramirez '10, Budget
Zulay Oyarvide '10, Events Coordinator and Itinerary
Genesis Grullón '10, Public Relations and Web Design
Rene Ventura '10, Logistics and Web Design
Sandy Tello '06, Events Coordinator and University Liaison

Narratives :
The following are personal stories provided by some of our group members.  These narratives describe some of the experiences and opinions of Wesleyan students who are members of Para La Familia.

Melgily Valdez '09

The opportunity to finally attend college was a very exciting experience for my parents and I because it marks just one more stepping stone closer to my dreams.  My parents however do not know much about colleges in the United States since they never did attend one here.  My mother attended the public university in Dominican Republic and my father never attended college.  The preconceived notions they have of a college campus are mainly from word of mouth and television.  At first college seemed like this very expensive place I would never be able to attend unless I went to a state school.  After attending The Northfield Mount Hermon School, an elite boarding school in Massachusetts, I started to discover the extensive number of resources able to me especially in the college counseling office. 

Wesleyan University has fulfilled many of my expectations of what I would like in a college especially with programs like Para La Familia where the Latino community is included.  Many times my family has felt alienated because they do not speak English very well.  My mother is self conscious of her accent so she refrains from talking as much.  The problem with many elite institutions admitting minorities is the absence of support systems available to them and their families.  I have finally found a place where I have a place and more importantly where my family has a place, a voice and is significant to the campus. 

Many Latino families value a tight knit family.  In my family we make a big effort to get together to eat dinner or watch a movie.  In all our busy lives it is important to be together and have an intimate relationship.  Attending Wesleyan has put me at a considerable distance from my house.  I can not go home every weekend even if I desired to.  However, programs like the Fin de Semana Familiar extends a welcoming hand for my parents to see Wesleyan for what it is. 

This year I am very excited to work with Para La Familia because I really believe the work I am doing is important.  Many institutions boast about their diversity while never really doing much for those minority students especially in retaining them for four years. This program is just another demonstration of how Latinos at Wesleyan can make a difference in their community while at the same time furthering their education but not forgetting about where they come from.

Zulay Oyarvide '10

My name is Zulay Oyarvide, and I am a Latina from the class of 2010. I have attended the Para la Familia meetings, and I know already that it would be one of the student groups that I would be most passionate about. PLF gives my parents opportunities we never thought they would have been able to have. It surprises me that I am able to say “we,” including my family into an issue that concerns my school. PLF has helped them deal with my living away from them, and it makes them feel more able to be active in the Wesleyan community.

My parents have always been the type to make sure I am well at school and having a good education, but private school prevented that. We live in a predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, so they didn’t have to be fluent in English in order to have lived there for twenty years. They knew what was necessary, like the stops on the subway or how to ask how much something costs. We speak Spanish at home, and my brother and sister taught me English while I had a bilingual education. My parents raised me to be proud of the Spanish language as a part of my Ecuadorian culture. Since I went to school in the neighborhood for a while, they always knew my teachers and classmates, and participated in school events. When I was given financial aid, I started attending private school in seventh grade, and everything changed for our family.

I usually talk about how much of a culture shock I faced when I started out in private school, but I didn’t realize then that my parents went through a shock of their own. Nearly all of the students in the school were white, Protestant, and of a high socio-economic status. I had a hard time in Middle School, but I never saw how my parents also made a lot of hard decisions. Because of the language barrier, they were no longer able to talk to the teachers to oversee my academic progress in school, and they couldn’t attend PTA meetings because they wouldn’t have understood anything. I would go with them to translate whenever they would try to meet my teachers (which was very awkward at times). Very few other parents spoke Spanish and were in the same situation. Eventually my parents decided that I was getting an education that I would have never gotten should I have stayed in public school, so they trusted me to look after my own education. In high school, I was more mature and realized how alienated my parents felt, even though my high school was slightly more diverse. During the college process, they didn’t even know where I applied until I got into the schools, because I was too stressed and busy to actually sit down and explain every decision I made and why I made it. The most they could do was attend the spring Para La Familia event on the last day of Wesfest.

When my parents came to Wesleyan, they were as amazed with the welcoming environment of the students and other families as they were of the school itself. They had no idea what it would be like for me to move away and live at school; it was a surreal American custom to them. They walked around campus in a tour and saw how beautiful it was. They talked to teachers and learned the concept of liberal arts studies (they, like many other Hispanic families, were taught that college is for those who already know what they want to do as a career). They met other students that were thinking about attending. What was most important was that they met other parents that were like them. My parents enjoyed themselves a lot, and I was glad to see them finally comfortable and happy for knowing about Wesleyan and finding out for themselves how I would live. I felt guilty for years, because I didn’t speak to them enough about school, and making them feel so alienated. It was one of the main reasons I decided to enroll in the school.

Maybe you can say that I am a sort of PLF success story. I was even thinking about trying to start it up in my high school, but there weren’t enough people or resources to do it. All I know is that my parents are making plans know to attend the next event in November, and they couldn’t be happier about it. I am glad that we don’t have to be the typical American family to enjoy the same experiences. It’s probable that any family in Bushwick, Brooklyn with a teenager trying to pick a college will have heard from my family about how great Wesleyan is. Do not be surprised if there are more Hispanic New York applicants than usual this year.



Zulay Oyarvide '10| Genesis Grullón '10 | Miguel Ramirez '10 | Rene Ventura '10

Sandy Tello '06, Office of Alumni and Parent Relations | Erik Gonzalez '09

Telephone/Teléfono: (860) 685-3855

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Page last Updated on: Monday, 12. October 2009 10:06 PM -0400