BY RACHEL ALEXANDER
Latinos in Action (LIA) has been a class offered at the Bay for many years which entails bi-weekly visits to local elementary schools, including Eagle Point and Manatee Bay, to empower Latino youth through college and career readiness.
Students must apply to be accepted into LIA; due to the overwhelming amount of applications in years prior, the class extended to form an affiliated club called Latinos in Action Beginnings. Students in LIA have been promoting the new, service-centered club through the use of social media.
“The vision for this year is to take advantage of the resources we have in our community,” Senior, LIA and LIA Beginnings President Leyla Feiz said. “We provide a platform for people to put themselves out there and have the opportunity to change to change the world.”
Class members get assigned an elementary-aged student that needs help in the classroom. Class and future club member junior, Carolina Garcia said she worked with a student that was struggling in school last year, so she felt inspired to reinforce the idea of the importance of school and tutored him until he improved.
“For this boy, focusing and paying attention in his class was difficult and this caused him to not enjoy school,” Garcia said. “Helping him, showed me that I have a passion for helping kids succeed in the huge world they live in.”
LIA expanded to accommodate 40 students in each period since only four periods are available and there has been an even greater amount of students interested in the course than in previous years.
“Speaking another language gives you a huge benefit and allows you to help so many people by listening to new perspectives,” Feiz said. “By extending the class we have more hands on deck and more opportunities to take advantage of what LIA has to offer.”
In addition to visiting elementary schools, the class and club organizes toy drives to raise money for various causes to give back to the community.
“Two years ago, we did a toy drive and it opened my eyes to the direct impact I can have on my community,” Feiz said. “It showed me from that day forward that this is what I wanted to lead and it was amazing to see how we all came together as a community to donate toys.”
Feiz said when she originally joined the class two years ago, she didn’t know what it entailed and only ended up joining after a meeting she went to because she had noride home from school that day.
“I listened in on the meeting and loved what they stood for and it was a class that would push one’s limits in the aspects of self-growth,” Feiz said. “I was always very shy and had so a lot to say but didn’t want to voice them because I didn’t know how until I joined LIA and later became President.”
Three years ago, LIA teacher and adviser Sgt. Maj. Cruz said he heard about LIA being an initiative from the White House to address the educational disparities faced by the Hispanic community. Sgt. Maj. Cruz said after finding out only 16 percent of Hispanics graduate from college in the U.S., he was motivated to take action and evoke a change in the lives of Hispanic community members.
“I decided to teach LIA [at the Bay] and become the club adviser because it seemed like a great opportunity to help my fellow Latino brothers and sisters,” Cruz said. “[LIA] is a unique club because they are geared to not only do community service, but also mentor and tutor [other students].”
Garcia said she joined the class and club because she loves helping the kids and the club gives her additional opportunities to help individuals.
“LIA has impacted the way I view other cultures,” Garcia said. “[It] has taught me who I am and who I want to be. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities the program provides to give back [to my community].”