Elac Fall 2023 Start Date

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Lana Leos, Edwin Sandoval, and Jecinia Yanez, all of Central American descent, attend East Los Angeles College.

Elac Fall 2023 Start Date

Elac Fall 2023 Start Date

Students whose families come from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and other Central American countries will be able to delve into the history and culture of their heritage through what is being hailed as California’s first community college-level study program in Central America, which will begin in spring 2023 at the College of East Los Angeles.

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ELAC is the only community college in California offering elective courses in Mesoamerican Studies. Now it is poised to become the first to allow students to earn an undergraduate degree in this field.

Elac Fall 2023 Start Date

“We are pioneers in this program. We hope to be the first among many other schools that will inspire and follow in our footsteps,” said Alberto Roman, president of ELAC, which has been offering tutoring in Central America since 2015.

With the creation of the program, announced on August 19, ELAC will increase the number of classes in Central America to five from three. (These courses will be “Introduction to Mesoamerican Studies,” “The Mesoamerican Experience,” “Mesoamerican Literature,” “Mesoamerican Film,” and “Mesoamerican Art.”)

Elac Fall 2023 Start Date

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Students will be able to earn an AA, then transfer to a four-year college or university to complete two more years and graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

Los Angeles County is home to the largest concentration of Central Americans in the United States, totaling at least 800,000 people including Salvadorans (421,573), Guatemalans (265,916), Hondurans (50,853), Nicaraguans (36,917), and Costa Ricans (9,844). About 5.3 million people of Central American descent live in the United States.

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Approximately 35,000 students attend ELAC each year, 75% of whom are Latino. 20% of Latin American students are of Central American descent.

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“This program is a great opportunity,” said Lana Leos, the daughter of a Guatemalan father and a Salvadoran mother studying nursing at ELAC. “It opens many doors for students who are of Central American descent and want to know more about their culture.”

Elac Fall 2023 Start Date

The new ELAC initiative builds on the precedent set by the State of Northern California when, in 2000, it launched the first Central American undergraduate program in the United States. In 2015, CSUN established the Department of Central American and Transnational Studies, and currently offers more than 25 classes in disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, history, art, immigration, and political science, among others.

Jocelyn Duarte, who holds a BA in Central American Studies from CSUN, began teaching at ELAC in 2016 and, through her experience, has had input in creating the new ELAC program and shaping its curriculum.

Elac Fall 2023 Start Date

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“We want to get students to join the classes, but the idea is to research more,” said Duarte, who is of Salvadoran descent. “By establishing the program and having a full-time [professor] position, it saves resources and ensures its institutionalization.”

Nancy Ramirez, professor of English at ELAC, celebrates that ELAC is taking this step because it will help students understand the sacrifices many of their immigrant parents have made to come to the United States. The vast majority of these immigrants have fled economic hardship, natural disasters or the violence and trauma of war.

Elac Fall 2023 Start Date

“The importance of learning from our history is that it will add to our identity as Central America,” Ramirez said, noting that it will help “students learn from the experiences of war, but also from our culture and our aesthetics.”

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The parents of another ELAC faculty member, Nora Zepeda, arrived from El Salvador in 1963, long before the civil war ravaged the country. Zepeda, a Spanish teacher, said that when she began studying her parents’ language with non-Latin teachers, her courses lacked the rich context needed to learn more about her inherited culture.

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Elac Fall 2023 Start Date

“My students will have the opportunity to study in a different environment,” she said. “They will be able to learn about teachers, culture, Spanish, and have experiences that I didn’t have.”

The new program can also help non-Hispanic communities learn about the history of Central American countries, including the role that U.S. financial interventions and military adventures have played in fueling immigration to the United States, said Kelly Velasquez, professor of political science at ELAC. .

Elac Fall 2023 Start Date

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“People from different cultures will be able to learn about our history and why we are here,” said Velazquez, whose parents fled El Salvador in the 1980s. “The influence of the United States across Central America has been so great and the immigration so great. The result of all this.”

Many immigrant children are unaware of this background. Jesenia Yánez, the daughter of a Mexican mother and Guatemalan father, started her third semester at ELAC this week. Her goal is to transfer to the University of California, Berkeley, where she wants to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in media studies.

Elac Fall 2023 Start Date

The 18-year-old said her father, who is of Maya descent and speaks K’iche, was very secretive about her culture and history. First under Spanish colonial rule, then under military dictatorship, the Maya people endured centuries of discrimination, economic oppression, and genocidal warfare—a brutal legacy often shrouded in fear and silence. However, Maya society maintained its distinctive creative vitality.

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Now, Yanez knows, she can study that history and culture as part of her school’s expanded Central American offerings.

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Elac Fall 2023 Start Date

“It’s a great opportunity,” she said. “I can finally explore that part of my culture that wasn’t discussed at home.”

The program also teases Edwin Sandoval, 19, who left his native Santa Ana, El Salvador, in 2010 and is taking classes that will allow him to move on to earn an electrical engineering degree.

Elac Fall 2023 Start Date

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Sandoval understands that his community suffers from negative stigmas. He believes that people often talk about Central America in terms of wars, migration, and violence. He believes that with programs like ELAC, these perceptions can change.

“We finally have representation here,” he said. Now that we have the study program in Central America, we will learn more about the culture and history. Others will learn more about us.”

Elac Fall 2023 Start Date

Officials hope that the ELAC program will become a model for the eight other institutions that make up the Los Angeles Community College District and then be implemented statewide.

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“We want to strengthen this curriculum in the nine community college district,” said Francisco Rodriguez, college district president, who said that of the district’s 200,000 students enrolled for the next semester, 62% are Latino and 24% are Latino. Central America.

Elac Fall 2023 Start Date

Being in a progressive country with the largest Latino population in the country makes ELAC the perfect place to “start academic programs to advance the importance of Central American culture, history, and diaspora,” Rodriguez said.

“We think we can start a model for the rest of California and maybe the country. Why not?”

Elac Fall 2023 Start Date

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Oriondo from El Salvador, Soudi Jiménez graduated with a BA in Journalism from UES. Prior to joining the Spanish-language Los Angeles Times, he worked at Megavisión (Channel 21) in the Salvadoran capital and at Radio World International and Hoy Los Ángeles.

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