La Bienvenida welcomes Spanish-speaking students

WSU student volunteers share their experiences with incoming students and their families at a La Bienvenida Alive! workshop in the CUB.

RICK FLORES, Evergreen reporter

Over 200 new students and their family members came to WSU for the 10th annual La Bienvenida orientation for Spanish-speakers Saturday.

La Bienvenida, which means The Welcome, is a supplement to the Alive! sessions and is mandatory for students in the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), a federally-funded program that aids students from migrant farm-working backgrounds.

WSU CAMP adviser Ray Acuña-Luna said La Bienvenida is a great opportunity for parents to learn how they can support their students.

“La Bienvenida is one of the few university orientations out there that is not in English,” he said. “As our Latino student population increased, we saw this program as a chance for parents to help their children get through college.”

Students attended presentations in Spanish regarding student life, admissions, financial aid and student services, and were provided opportunities to speak with Spanish-speaking faculty and staff from various departments at WSU.

Parents attended workshops while incoming students were taken on campus tours by volunteer orientation counselors (OC).

Junior computer science and Spanish double-major Jesus Policarpo volunteered to be an OC for La Bienvenida.

He said this program had resources not only for students who are citizens, but also for DACA recipients and other undocumented students.

“This is a unique program and is the only one in the Northwest United States,” he said. “We had resources for DACA students and their families so that they could learn what financial aid is available to them in order to be able to afford school.”

Marcela Pattinson, assistant director of Community Relations and Outreach with Multicultural Student Services, organized La Bienvenida this year with the help of WSU Admissions, ASWSU and Housing and Dining Services.

“We had 25 volunteers, five orientation counselors and 13 WSU staff,” she said. “Everyone worked hard to make sure new students and their families had a good time and learned a lot about what the first year of college will be like.”

Pattinson said the program is held in May to avoid interfering with summer crop harvests, thus ensuring students and their families have an opportunity to participate.

RACHEL SUN | The Daily Evergreen
Jose Mariscal, a parent attending La Bienvenida, speaks about the experiences he had with his first child when they went to WSU.

Incoming students and their families had to pay $25 each for the program, which included their housing in university dorms, meals, presentations and La Bienvenida T-shirts. Students are also required to attend Alive orientation sessions, which cost an additional $230 for students and $195 for parents, if they choose to attend.

Pattinson credits Multicultural Student Services and CAMP for making the event affordable for incoming students and their families by subsiding the cost for attendees to stay in the dorms.

“It was a priority to make this event affordable for everyone,” she said.

Keyla Palominos, an undocumented student and a junior English and Spanish double-major, also volunteered as an OC this year. She said that this program is beneficial for the Latino student population at WSU.

“I wish my parents came to this event when I was coming to WSU,” she said. “This is something we need to have every year, and I hope more parents come so that students don’t have to struggle as much with school.”

Elda Ramos from Kirkland said after attending the program, she has a better understanding of what her child will be going through during their first year at WSU.

“This was my first time here, and I already feel better about sending my child to school here,” Ramos said.

Parents had a chance to ask questions to three parents who have already had their children attend WSU. Marcela Lopez from Mason said she felt more prepared to help her son succeed.

“This program educated my family on how we can help my son,” Lopez said, “and it showed me the strong sense of community the Latino students have at WSU.”