By Erica Rodriguez, City Year Tulsa AmeriCorps Member

Would you like your “café con leche?”

Café Con Leche is one of the newest affinity groups at City Year Tulsa, created this year to bring together AmeriCorps members to discuss challenges and brainstorm ways to better serve our Spanish-speaking students.

This group has a Hispanic/Latinx focus because the majority of the students we serve here in Tulsa are Hispanic and/or Latinx. In fact, the Hispanic/Latinx population in some of our schools are higher than any other race/ethnicity.

But, just because our group has a specific cultural focus, we still wanted to create a club where everyone could feel welcome attending. Our four co-founders, Eudocia, Tatiana, Jaime and I, Erica, all bring something different to the group.

While we all come from strong Hispanic/Latinx cultures and all have families that speak Spanish, we each come from a different part of the U.S. (New York, California, Texas, and Ohio), and have enjoyed sharing our differences and similarities from our varying hometowns and cultures with each other.

We knew we wanted to create a comfortable place where we could talk about and keep in touch with our culture. But, we realized we could use our knowledge and experiences to help other AmeriCorps members who are unfamiliar with Hispanic/Latinx culture and communities.

Our co-founders have set a few different goals for our group. Some desire to help themselves and members learn to speak more Spanish, others want to understand what resources are available for our students, but all of us wanted to connect with and celebrate our Hispanic/Latinx culture together as well as focused on improving the interactions we have with our Spanish-speaking students.

For instance, I grew up in a family with a strong Latinx culture, so I feel like I connect with my Spanish-speaking students very naturally, but I do not speak or understand Spanish (besides the basic “hello” and “goodbye”). I want this club to help me learn to speak more Spanish so that I can communicate with and support my students better.

We also want Café Con Leche to be a place for open conversations—both fun and challenging—and discuss difficult topics we see happening in our schools and communities.

Because, if our goal is to make sure our Spanish-speaking students are supported, we know that starts with making sure that our AmeriCorps members are aware of the challenges our Hispanic/Latinx students face as well as the resources that are available to AmeriCorps members as mentors and tutors or offered to our students.

Making sure we are culturally aware of the Hispanic/Latinx community can make building relationships and serving our students a lot easier. By learning about the languages and lifestyle of our students, we hope to show them that even with cultural barriers we still care and want the best for them.

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