For most people, the best memories of college go beyond classes; it’s the friendships and sense of community that students remember the most. For a growing number of Latino students, culturally-based fraternities and sororities provides them with just that.
For Beverly Gallegos, a sister of Pi Lambda Chi Latina Sorority, Inc. and alumna of the University of Denver, joining a Latina sorority gave her a “home away from home” as a first-generation student.
“For me it was that support network and that group of people that could help me through college,” said Gallegos, who was a first-generation college student when she attended the campus. Navigating college initially was tough, she said, since her parents had not attended college and were limited in the guidance they could provide. Her sorority sisters gave her insights, support and confidence throughout her years at the university.
According to Daisy Verduzco Reyes, Ph.D, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, a growing number of Latino students are joining multicultural Greek organizations because they serve as a tool to integrate students to the campus community-at-large. Many of these students have grown up in all-Latino communities.
“Actually about a third of Latino students in K through 12 are going to all minority schools,” said Verduzco Reyes.
Gallegos became a sister of Pi Lambda Chi six years ago. Her sorority is a Latina-based organization that was founded in Colorado in 1994 by nine women who felt that their needs could not be met by already established organizations on campus. Although the organization is labeled as a Latina organization, members of the group said it is open to women of all backgrounds.
The organization currently has six chapters at colleges and universities across Colorado. They have recently expanded, creating chapters at the University of Texas at Austin and a Professional Chapter in Pennsylvania.
Manny Navedo attended Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey and became the co-captain of the stroll team for his Latino fraternity, Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity. His frat, said Navedo, “was everything I wanted going into college.” Navedo said he was drawn to the fraternity’s community service initiatives and the deep support system.
While there are dozens of multicultural organizations throughout the country, there are no official enrollment numbers because many of the groups are private.
But Latino Greek members say they are growing in popularity, and they stress that multicultural and/or Latino based organizations are fairly different from traditionally white and Panhellenic groups.
”They [Panhellenic] recruit by numbers, they choose their members, they have to pay extensive amounts of money to live in houses, they have dues,” said America Ramirez, a sister of Pi Lambda Chi. In multicultural organizations, “we really [founded] ourselves —it’s quality over quantity.”
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