By Dorany Pineda
A new Central American Studies Program is now offered at East Los Angeles College, the first of its kind in California’s Community Colleges.
The program comes after decades of talk and attempts to offer the program to the growing population of Central American students in ELAC. The population makes up 13 percentof its Latino student body.
“For years there was no support from the administration,” Assistant Professor in the Chicano and Central American Studies department, Andrew Monzon said.
The program gained momentum with the arrival of the current Chicano Studies department chair Eddie Flores four years ago, and was launched last Fall with the support of president Marvin Martinez.
The only college in California that currently offers a bachelor’s degree in Central American Studies is California State University, Northridge.
There are currently two classes in the program offered at ELAC and two more that will be offered. The classes offered this semester are The Central American Experience and Introduction to Central America Studies.
The Central American Studies Program will offer an associate’s degree to students within the next five years. All of the courses offered are California State University and University of California transferrable.
“Latinos are the number one ethnic group in the United States and Central Americans are the third largest population of Latinos and a continuously growing demographic,” Monzon said.
“Students that know the issues in the Central American community are not only more marketable and stand out, but their knowledge will help in their future well-being and that of our country’s,” Monzon said about the importance of the Central American Studies program.
Flores said that the implementation of the Central American Studies program is a significant step in the college institution and a small step in a much bigger vision.
Several ELAC professors have teamed up with the nonprofit organization CARECEN, the Central American Resource Center, and are doing outreach at Jefferson High School among other local high schools with predominately Latino student populations.
“Studies have shown that when students see themselves reflected in the curriculum they’re being taught, they do better in school,” Monzon said.
Monzon said that historically Chicanos and Central Americans have been portrayed as being at odds with each other and hopes that providing Central American classes to the students at ELAC can bring both communities together.
For more information on ELAC’s Central American Studies Program, visit elac.edu/academics/departments/chicano/.