Co-president of UNIDOS pushes for change

Xavie Wilson, Staff Writer

“I think she really wants to change the world. I think she really cares about the students at South High. She has a really legitimate desire to be a leader, she has natural leadership qualities,” english teacher and advisor of UNIDOS Delainia Haug said as she described the co-president of UNIDOS, senior Jacqueli Yaurincela.

Yaurincela describes herself as an organized and involved student who would like to make a change. Yaurincela is has been a key member of the student group UNIDOS for three years. UNIDOS means united in spanish, and that is exactly what this group is. All the students involved don’t necessarily come from a latino background, but are all interested in the culture. Yaurincela wants to use UNIDOS as a stepping stone to make an impact on the lives of others as well as her own.

Haug believes Yaurincela is inspired by personal experiences. “She said to me that no one helped [her] know what to do for college,” Haug remembered. “There was no one that knew [her] cultural experience as a Latino student here at South and [she] wants to help other students that are younger than [her] so that they have a better experience than [she] did.”

Just this year, Yaurincela gained an interest in what is known as the achievement gap. And according to the U.S Department of Education, Minnesota holds the largest achievement gap in the nation. The Minneapolis Public School District website reports that, as of 2013, hispanic students have a graduation rate of 34.4%, while white students hold a graduation rate of 67.3%.

“[The numbers] should be equal. Aren’t we in a place where there is equity? The numbers aren’t showing that we have an equal chance of being successful. We need to do something about it,” Yaurincela expressed.

Jacqueli believes this gap comes from the lack of college readiness programs and spread of information. She feels like schools should help to keep their students on track, and those who need that extra push should be given it. And no matter how long it takes, no student should be left behind.

Co-president of UNIDOS, senior John Laredo reflects that Yaurincela value has been highlighted in Yaurincela’s agenda for the year. Laredo explained, “We planned for the college and career center to come here and talk to students about [college]. There is this huge gap about our parents not knowing what to do about college, how it works, and how to advise their kids. That’s what we talked about in the summer. We talked about how we can help to help the students and their parents to have this idea about how college works.”

While UNIDOS does incorporate the importance of college for Latino students,  Yaurincela stressed that group also wants to build a strong community and get everyone involved.

“I feel like South [students] should motivate each other, we are a community so we should motivate each other to come to these different [student] groups,” expressed Yaurincela. “I feel like people are scared of going to one because they don’t know anyone or no one will go with them. It’s kind of a goal that I want for everyone.”

Currently, UNIDOS goals for this year are building the community, to continue recruiting members, as well as to help eachother out.

“This summer [UNIDOS] started to do a yearly plan. In that plan, we have some college visits, service projects, leadership opportunities, leadership group opportunities. We have family night as well, not only for our group, but also for other groups as well to be informed,” said Yaurincela. She elaborated, “Our main focus for family night this year is to get ready for college and what that means. What you need to go to college, like scholarships and financial aid. This is to inform mostly parents, students, and future students.”

With the help of Jaqueli, UNIDOS is reaching those goals. Haug explained that Yaurincela’s organization has given her the ability to do everything from make agendas to posting on facebook to communicate with the UNIDOS members. Haug says, “She does everything.”

“Without her, oh my god, it would be bad. She’s organized and she gets things done,” described Laredo.

She also feels like the South administration should make an effort to have the student groups work together to build the community. That way there aren’t all these little groups, there can just be this one ginormous student group working together to better the school as well as the community.

One way Yaurincela has helped build community by building relationships with the freshman. “We want new and incoming freshman to feel that they are in a better place instead of feeling isolated. I feel that when you’re starting high school, you don’t feel welcome, you don’t know where to start. I felt lost when I started. I want our group to have a community.”