GVSU Laker Familia Orientation kicks off fall semester

By Sidney Selvig | 8/20/17 10:31pm

GVL / Courtesy - Office of Multicultural Affairs

The 2017 Laker Familia Orientation is a three-day program designed specifically to welcome Latino/a students to Grand Valley State University. The program provides students with a personal welcome to campus; opportunities to connect with fellow students, faculty and staff; and tools for navigating many campus and community resources.

This year, the orientation will begin Sunday, Aug. 20, and will continue through Tuesday, Aug. 22, on the Allendale Campus.

The orientation is about creating a sense of community that will support students in their pursuit of a college degree. It focuses on celebrating culture and incorporating students' identities with their GVSU experience and making sure they are aware of the vast resources offered at GVSU that will help them succeed.

Salvador Lopez, associate director of admissions specializing in diversity recruitment at GVSU, has been an active member of the committee since it began in 2014. Lopez was invited to join this new committee aimed at developing an early orientation program for Latino/a students, and after a year of volunteering his time, he was offered the position of co-chair for Laker Familia Orientation, which he has held ever since.

“Grand valley is a predominantly white institution, and 17 percent of the students at Grand Valley are your students of color, with five percent of that being your Latino/a group,” Lopez said. “Laker Familia is meant to help students transition into a space where the majority of people probably don't look like them, yet still remind these students that there are others that are similar to your background that do exist here on campus so that they know they are not alone.”

Nicholas Debernardi, a licensed psychologist and the coordinator of career assessment and programming at the University Counseling Center, has also been an active member of Laker Familia since it began. After arriving at GVSU four years ago, he quickly connected with other faculty and staff members who shared his passion for being involved with efforts that celebrate and support the Latino/a community. He was excited to learn about GVSU’s commitment to supporting the success of these students.

“Creating a sense of family and support is the most significant part of Laker Familia,” Debernardi said. “The relationships we see being developed over the three days is amazing. These students begin their GVSU experience with a network of peers and faculty/staff they can use and depend on for the rest of their college experience and beyond.”

The Laker Familia Orientation committee has constructed an agenda to facilitate a connection between students and various communities within GVSU.

The agenda includes early move-in for on-campus housing; the Laker Familia welcome, keynote and dinner for parents, students and guardians in the Kirkhof Center, Room 2250; team building and civic engagement events; workshops on campus exploration and cultural identity; indoor soccer; games; rock climbing activities; and an optional trip to Craig's Cruisers Tuesday, Aug. 22, at 5 p.m to end it all.

Currently, more than 120 volunteers from departments within the GVSU community—such as Admissions, the Office of Financial Aid & Scholarships, Housing and Residence Life, academic advising, counseling, the Career Center and beyond—are participating and coming together to make this event memorable for incoming Latino/a students.

“Everyone is invited to help show that there are always people to support you at Grand Valley,” Lopez said. “I want to let these students know that this is something you want to be a part of because we are going to help you succeed as a student here.”  

For a full list of the Laker Familia Orientation events, visit www.gvsu.edu/oma/laker-familia-orientation-program-40.htm. 

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