News from the Aurora University community

Trip marks 10th year LASO attends Hispanic civil rights group’s annual convention

Posted by on October 5, 2016


NCLR attendees (L-R): Eva Serrano, Omar Cabadas, Erick Tapia, Salvador Lazaro, Marisol Velazquez, Joceline Molina, Melissa Garcia, Myrna Garcia, Hernan Ramirez, Viviana Zambrano and Andromeda Palma.

Ten members of the Aurora University Latin American Student Organization (LASO) traveled to Orlando this summer to attend the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) annual conference. Founded in 1968, La Raza is the largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy group in the country whose mission is to create opportunities and open the door to the American Dream for Latinos and other families.

The trip marked the 10th year LASO has participated in the event.

“NCLR brings together 10,000 to 12,000 people from around the country who are interested in talking about and learning about issues that affect the Latino community, such as education, immigration and health care,” said Eva Serrano, Director of Latino/a Initiatives and LASO’s faculty advisor.

“The conference is informative but it’s also inspirational,” she said. “Over the years I’ve found that students come back highly committed to engagement and more confident in getting involved. They come back wanting to make a difference.”

Serrano also noted that most students who have participated in the annual trip have gone on to graduate. “This type of high impact activity really drives home the importance to participants that completing a college degree really opens doors of opportunity in the future.”

This year’s conference theme, fitting for a presidential election year, was “Act. Participate. Vote.” and the program featured a lengthy roster of nationally known speakers, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and the straight-talking CNN Republican political commentator Ana Navarro.

Marisol Velazquez, a sophomore majoring in social work, admits that she didn’t know what to expect at her first NCLR but was most impressed by Navarro and Warren, as well as Aisha Moody-Mills, president and CEO of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, and Wilson Cruz, a gay actor of Puerto Rican descent who first gained national attention in his role as Rickie Vasquez, a troubled gay teenager in ABC’s “My So-Called Life.”

“Many of the talks touched on the Orlando nightclub shooting, which had occurred about six weeks before,” Velazquez said. “There was a lot of discussion about acceptance and tolerance, which was very relevant.”

For more information about LASO, please contact Eva Serrano at