LASO recognizes service staff, makes strides as student group

LASO recognizes service staff, makes strides as student group

By Allison Mudge

The Latin American Student Organization (LASO) thanked Northeastern’s service workers yesterday afternoon at its second annual Staff Worker Appreciation Day. The event, which was named Program of the Year last year, has become a staple for LASO, a group that has gained prominence on campus in recent years.

“I think it’s great that the kids appreciate what we do,” said Russ Goreham, who works in landscaping. “Most of what we do is for the kids.”

LASO collaborated with the Progressive Student Alliance (PSA) and the Council for University Programs (CUP) to honor over 100 service workers in the Curry Student Center ballroom. Members of LASO, representatives from CUP and the Student Government Association (SGA) were on hand to serve lunch, thank the workers and present a banner signed by a number of students.

Garrett Marques, a LASO member who served as team leader for this year’s event, said the event cost more than LASO expected when the group first approached the Budget Review Committee for funding, but they worked through CUP to receive a donation from the National Residence Hall Honorary. PSA has been helping with the night janitorial staff on its contract renewal, which is how they became involved.

“We were pushing that there was an importance in recognizing the service workers on campus who aren’t always in the limelight,” said Sergio Marrero, LASO president. “They’re in the background, serving the campus. We felt it was definitely important to recognize them.”

LASO was founded in 1988, and has grown yearly in terms of numbers, visibility and influence on campus. Marrero said LASO’s recent success is the result of several factors, including the quality of the group’s events.

“It’s the way we bring not only our group, but other groups and people together on a greater level to execute events,” Marrero said.

LASO also benefits from its leadership, said John Guilfoil, SGA’s vice president for student affairs. The group also refers to its leadership as a “team,” which helps contribute to its strong internal relationships.

“LASO’s always benefited from excellent leadership,” Guilfoil said. “They’ve had very good presidents for the last four years and they’ve created very good executive boards, which they call an executive team.”

Marrero said the biggest change he witnessed within LASO since his freshman year has been members “stepping up” and wanting to make a difference. He credits LASO’s success to both its members and its leadership.

Like Marrero, senior computer science major Andres Tejeda has seen LASO evolve from a small group that met in the Latino/a Student Cultural Center to an organization with 50-plus active members who, having outgrown the center, must now meet in the John D. O’Bryant African-American Institute, Tejeda said.

Tejeda joined LASO as a freshman, and said during his sophomore year the group began to make a name for itself on campus. The group began revamping by putting together events including a forum on race relations, which drew large crowds, he said. LASO also started to actively recruit members during summer orientation sessions.

“It just kind of snowballed from e-board to e-board and we’ve kept the momentum going,” Tejeda said.

LASO partnered with CUP to bring comedian Pablo Francisco to Northeastern last fall. In recent years, members have participated in Habitat for Humanity, NU Service Day, date auctions and established high school mentoring programs, Marrero said.

With these accomplishments behind, LASO is making strides toward what Marrero called its “biggest initiative”: uniting student organizations with common interests and forging ties with those groups.

The group collaborated with SGA to put together two events last fall, a “Student Group Synergy” session and “Why Are We Afraid?” which discussed diversity on campus. Guilfoil said the discussion was successful in bringing together hundreds of students from different backgrounds, including race, sexuality, political beliefs and socio-economic status.

“We brought 12 student groups together for that and worked as one group,” Marrero said. “You learn about not only the other groups, but about a range of personalities you would never have the opportunity to if you didn’t bring those people together.”

Marrero said LASO remains committed to collaborating with other student groups. Last year, members worked with several groups who were unhappy about the elimination of the diversity chair from CUP. The groups issued a joint recommendation to CUP, which resulted in the creation of a new vice president of collaboration position.

“One thing I’ve seen, and I definitely hope we’ve been a catalyst in this, is more student groups working together where they overlap in their mission,” Marrero said. He said if LASO’s mission is similar to that of another organization, the group tries to reach out and bring the groups together.

Collaboration with other groups is the external piece of LASO’s mission, and internally, the group works to educate members about their cultures and where they come from.

Learning about his cultural background is what attracted freshman Calvin Perez to LASO.

“I didn’t grow up around many Latinos,” the civil and environmental engineering major said. “It’s kind of like I’m trying to figure out who I am myself. That’s what drew me to it.”

Tejeda also credited fellow members with helping him through his first few years of college.

“LASO is not a mentoring program, but the people that I’ve met there kind of became my mentors the first few years I was involved with them,” he said.

Perez said he plans to stay involved with LASO throughout his Northeastern career. Six months into his freshman year, he said he has made “unbelievable friends” through the group.

“I’ve never met such a tight-knit group of people who are similar to me and who want to succeed as much as I do,” Perez said.

Marques, a sophomore political science major, also joined LASO as a freshman. He heard about the group through friends and a LASO-sponsored poetry slam he attended. Marques cited the group’s unity as a major drawing point for him.

Marrero’s long-term goals for LASO include outreach, member growth and continuing its involvement with other groups on campus.

“It’s a combination of forces,” he said of LASO’s growing popularity. “It’s the events that we do, the outreach that we do, and it’s how we really give members a stake in the vision of the organization.” –>

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