Latinos Without Borders a ‘beautiful experience’

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Pao Zapata

Israel Ibañez, Danny De Leon, Dahlia Hernandez, and Pao Zapata at the Latinos Without Borders Fall Camp Banquet at the University of Oklahoma.

Pao Zapata , Editor in Chief

Latinos Without Borders is a Registered Student Organization at the University of Oklahoma. It is a program that is well-known in the Hispanic/Latinx community at OU and is something that has changed the community for those students.  

Maria Fernanda Gonzalez, is the chair of LWB. A junior from Dallas, Tex., she is double majoring in psychology and sociology with a minor in Spanish.

“I think most of the time the things that set back minorities is the lack of access, especially Hispanic/Latine communities. Many [Hispanic/Latinx] students are first generation,” Gonzalez said. “They are navigating their entire process on their own and sometimes end up being hurt because they aren’t aware of things that are available for them. They just have to ask and apply for them. So, I think that this program being completely free of cost really breaks down that barrier. Which is part of the name Latinos Without Borders.” 

“LWB helps these students meet different people from other school and you truly do gain a family here at OU.” 

Seniors Israel Ibañez, Pao Zapata, Dahlia Hernandez and Danny De Leon received the opportunity to attend LWB. These students were chosen out of 170+ applicants and obtained countless information about college and scholarships through workshops. 

“I was pretty surprised that I was accepted, I heard a lot of kids talking about applying and I didn’t think my essays were good enough,” Hernandez said. “The morning of on the bus, I was so nervous. I thought I was going to get there late and I was scared because there weren’t many people that we knew, and I was thinking that I was going to be all quiet,” said Hernandez. 

Ibañez said he was excited to be accepted.

I didn’t know what was going to go on at the camp but I was looking forward to it and I knew it was going to be a good experience,” he said. “I knew I would build close friendships with the guys and I was looking forward to meeting all the new people.”

LWB separated the students into five groups with two Family Leaders. Over the weekend we attended activities together and really got to know each other. 

“I thought it was really enlightening, especially with our [groups]. You got to build a close relationship with the family leaders and the other students from other schools. It was cool to connect with the people you’ve never met before,” Ibañez said. He also said it was a great way to make connections with people from other cities and to build communities for later. 

“I really connected with my family leaders, and it was cool to meet other people from other schools, especially the guy from Guymon. This camp was a very beautiful experience. Everyone made me feel safe and never pressured me into opening up,” De Leon said. 

Granting this camp was not cheap to put on Gonzalez revealed.

“In previous years, we had been in different positions here at OU, which secured our budget, but as the years have gone by that has changed,” she said. “I am very grateful for my Vice Chair of Sponsorship, Adriana Gonzalez-Vega, because over the summer we had $0.42 in our account and this camp equates $10,000 to put on.” 

Not only was it expensive, but it was very hard, especially coming back from not having the camp for two years due to the pandemic.

“Two weeks before camp, everything went wrong that could go wrong and I was so close to cancelling camp every time,” Gonzalez said. “But every single time I talked to someone that I knew they were like even if one student shows up, their lives are going to be impacted.”

Gonzalez also said that the focus of the camp wasn’t the swag the students received, but the experience they gained.

“I hope the campers leave with an experience they won’t get anywhere else and feel not only empowered to go to college, but also empowered with themselves knowing they belong in these spaces of higher education,” she said.

Ibañez and Pao Zapata were also awarded with ‘Star Campers’ of our groups. 

“To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect,” Ibañez said. “Since the beginning I tried to put myself out there and engage with everyone as much I could. I tried to take advantage of most of the experience as I could. I tried my hardest to help others, interact with them, and to do everything that I could. In the end I think it really paid off.” 

“This camp taught us about ourselves. LWB is really something that we will never forget,” said Zapata.

“If I get accepted and go to OU, I will definitely want to be part of Latinos Without Borders,” Hernandez said.

If you are a current Hispanic/Latinx high school student in Oklahoma, going to this camp can help students who are really debating to go to college. Not only can students learn about new opportunities but get to experience what it is like to be a college student first hand.