Stopping the rate of Hispanic high school dropouts, encouraging Hispanics to pursue a higher education, and proving people wrong are all goals of the Hispanic Student Organization (HSO) at Tyler Junior College.

The HSO at TJC was founded in the fall of 2006, and although it started out with as little as three members and a sponsor, it has grown to 76 members and counting.

“This year we worked together, and on our first meeting we had 75 people and all of them signed up,” Andrea Reyes, president of HSO, said. “So it has grown a lot… and we have worked so hard to make it a lot bigger.”

The purpose of HSO is to promote and expand higher education to Hispanic students. They also want to encourage high school and middle school students to not only get their high school diploma, but to also go to college. In the process, they also want to prove discouraging people wrong.

“[We] try to promote a positive image of the Hispanic community, pretty much to erase the whole cliché of ‘Oh yeah, you’re Mexican, [therefore] you’re from a gang,’ or, you know, ‘You must not go to school,’ and all of that stuff,” Reyes said.

Members of HSO get involved in several community projects.”We’re trying to get the Hispanic community more involved in everything that goes around in the school,” Ignacio Alva, public relations officer of HSO and a Business Administration major at TJC, said. “Because [there are] a lot of Hispanics that just come to school and leave, and they don’t know anything about what’s going on.”

HSO members participate in on and off-campus TJC events and activities. They participated in Habitat for Humanity, which is a non-profit organization that builds houses for low-income families, and Student Latina Day, which “was a conference for 8th grade girls to encourage them to go to college,” Reyes said.

“Because sometimes at that age you don’t know college. You don’t think about that, and that’s the age that they drop out of school and get pregnant, or you know, they’re just thinking about their quinceañera (a Hispanic tradition for girls who turn 15 years old),” Reyes said.

The Breaking Barriers in Education Dinner, a progressive dinner designed to educate Hispanic students and parents about the educational opportunities offered in Tyler, is a big event that the HSO is deeply involved in every year. Día de los Muertos, Cinco de Mayo, International Day, and the Mexican Bake Sale are also events and activities that the HSO is involved with to help teach people more about their culture.

“This year we’re [also] going to do Dream Big ’09; Estudiando Por UnSueño, is the name we put in Spanish,” Reyes said. “It’s going to focus on juniors in high school, girls and boys, because we feel that in that time, they are also very at risk [to drop out of high school].”

Hispanic students, however, are not the only members of HSO. Non-Hispanic students, including international students, also join.

“They just like to come here because they, I guess, they like us or, you know, they want to get along and they actually learn a lot,” Reyes said.

HSO meetings are held at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays in the Board Room in the White Administration building.

“HSO is not just for Hispanic students, it’s open to all,” David Gonzalez, one of the primary sponsors of HSO, said. “Anybody who wants to learn about our culture[ or] learn about the language, they’re more than welcome to join in anytime.”

For more information, contact HSO sponsors Nidia Arellano by e-mail at nare@tjc.edu or David Gonzalez by e-mail at dgon@tjc.edu.

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