Students of Color Conference held in Yakima

By Eric Hermosada

Students from all over Washington gathered in Yakima to attend the annual Students of Color Conference (SOCC), which was held by the Multicultural Student Services Directors’ Council (MSSDC) from April 6-8.

“The goal is to support Washington State students to become more active proponents in their own education and life choices, and expand the opportunities and possibilities to become agents of change,” according to the MSSDC website.
A main theme of the conference was Social Justice and Social Activism.
The students were guided through workshops to help them understand why it is so important to become social agents of change that push the boundaries for students of color.
Diego Chino is a Whatcom student that attended the conference.
“What I learned was that we can all make a difference, it might not seem like we do but united we can,” Chino said.
The workshops that students chose to attend ranged from awareness of others to skill development.
In the workshops students could learn to understand race, ethnicity, and the differences of the groups that attended. Some students even had their own workshops to run.
“It was very eye-opening, there I felt safe, it really felt like I was at home,” Chino said about his experience in the LGBTQ+ workshop.
Olivia Caldwell is a Whatcom student and member of the Intercultural Center that attended the SOCC.
“It was quite magical being in a room full of people that are ready to stand together, It’s something I don’t get to experience everyday,” Caldwell said.
A common misconception about conferences such as this is that they are only for students of color, but the SOCC is not a student of color exclusive event.
Anybody from any background, identity, or race can attend and participate to learn more about being aware of others, being an ally, and how to help people when possible.
Lizbeth Gonzalez-Vasquez is student at Whatcom that attended the SOCC.
“If you are ready to learn and can be respectful, anybody can come to the conference,” Gonzalez-Vasquez said.
Students credited the conference for their newfound motivation to connect with those around them.
“I feel like I’ve built connections, people are still coming into the Intercultural Center trying to keep those connections alive,” Gonzalez-Vasquez said.
“After coming back from the conference I felt re-energized, more able to get work done and I felt more connected to people on-campus and ready to push the message of becoming social agents of change,” Gonzalez-Vasquez said.
According to the MSSDC website becoming a social agent of change is to promote social justice and social activism for people of color.
“It’s important to go, because it has the power in only two days to change my life,” Caldwell said.
The vision for the SOCC was for it to be considered a first step in the process of being a social agent of change.
“I hope we keep the connections that we made because that is what will keep the movement of social justice going,” Gonzalez-Vasquez said.
Tanya Zaragoza-Rosas is the Admissions Outreach Coordinator at Whatcom Community College, and she served as an advisor on the trip.
“The next step is the Students Leading Change Conference (SLCC) at Whatcom on May 20, a lot of the students that attended the SOCC will be doing workshops and teaching about what they learned,” Zaragoza-Rosas said.

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