“Family relationships are at the core of social life among Latinos,” said Belinda Campos, an associate professor in the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies at the University of California, Irvine. Finding a relatable community, such as a Greek organization or other affinity group, that can share cultural backgrounds and help navigate college systems is important, she said. Many Latinos find the transition to college stressful and may have trouble persisting to graduation if they don’t find a sense of belonging. For instance, in California, 43% of all public higher education students are Latino, yet only half earn a degree, according to a 2021 study. So, what might help close this gap?
“When we find other people that we can connect to, who can give us that moment of feeling that we have things in common with somebody else and they celebrate the things that we do,” Campos told Greater Good Magazine, “then I think that gives you that space for belonging while you figure out how you’re going to belong at the university.”
At UC Berkeley, a team of researchers tracked a group of Latino undergrads who were involved in weekly leadership seminars, retreats and other events through the Case Magdalena Mora Theme Program. This participation was found to protect involved students against stress, both in the present and a year later.
Involvement in a group such as Sigma Pi Alpha, a Chicana/Latina-based sorority, can also help. Leslye Salinas, the national council president for all Sigma Pi Alpha chapters, found a rich cultural network within the “Ellas,” as the group calls themselves, when she was in college. She received support and help navigating college, and ultimately graduated with a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley.
Find out more about the importance of affinity groups and belonging as they relate to college persistence here.