ELAC Honor students will present at UCI Conference

By Annette Quijada

Ruby Pichardo, Kaitlyn Garcia and Perla Valencia will present their submitted abstracts at the Honors Transfer Council of California Student Research Conference.

HTCC gives California Community College students the opportunity to work on academic research, and are encouraged to present their work at the annual spring conference held at the University of California Irvine. 

The three East Los Angeles College students found the opportunity while taking Chicano 2 with Dr. Nadine Bermudez, who is part of the Chicano Studies Department at ELAC. Each student wrote a separate research project on different subjects.

Pichardo’s presentation, “Breaking the System: Tattoos as a Representation of Identity and Resistance,” focuses on how Chicano youth use tattoos to break gender norms and cultural barriers in society. 

As a Chicana herself, Pichardo noticed a lot of pushback from people in her culture when she first started getting tattoos. 

“When I first started getting tattoos, I saw the looks of my family members and acquaintances. I grew up with this idea that people who get tattoos are dirty, they’re up to no good or they’re criminals. When I got my tattoos, I started thinking I’m none of these things,” Pichardo said. 

She said tattoos help her express who she is and each tattoo has its own meaning. Pichardo conducted her research by reading academic journals and interviewing a Chicano who has tattoos and has faced the same pattern of reactions from others. 

“After personally getting the reactions I got, I wanted to further look into this phenomenon that happens within the Latino community of looking down on people with tattoos, especially because tattoos are more normalized now,” Pichardo said. 

She will be graduating with an AA in Administration of Justice in June. She will transfer out to earn her bachelors and will then head to law school. Pichardo is also a  semi-finalist for the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship,

Garcia’s research presentation, “The Pursuits of Mexican Immigrant Children: The Development of First-Generation Children in the U.S,” examines the mental health of Mexican Immigrant children and challenges they face while living in the United States. In her work, she interviewed three women who identify as Mexican American and she dove into their childhood experiences. 

Garcia was inspired to research this topic because she is a first-generation Mexican American. 

“I wanted to see if there were women out there who feel the same way because I felt so alone. Nobody really talks about our mental health,” Garcia said.

She said her research concluded that the three women demonstrated similar issues related to their mental health and choices to escape poverty. 

 “This is a topic that needs to be talked about more. It’s not just for Mexican Americans, it goes for any race. Minority groups are facing a lot of the same issues. I’m hoping I can make people more aware,” 

Garcia said. Garcia is majoring in Business Administration and is looking to transfer next year. 

Valencia’s presentation is “Community Engagement & Belonging: A Minority Within Minorities.” Her focus is on how a student who is not of Mexican descent feels while being on a very Latino campus. 

Valencia was inspired by her Chicano class. It opened up her eyes to a lot of her history and she wanted to expand her knowledge on how Latinos currently feel about their space in education. 

“ELAC is great at having resources for minorities, but I wanted to see how inclusivity looks for students who aren’t part of the general population,” Valencia said. 

Valencia’s original idea for the research was not on this topic. It wasn’t until she interviewed her subject that she realized her work would lead in a different direction. 

“I appreciate the campus, but is [the] feeling shared throughout a lot of students, most students, or is that just me?” 

Valencia is a sociology major and is getting a degree in social justice in Chicano studies. She will be graduating this spring and transferring in the fall. 

Pichardo, Garcia and Valencia were all mentored by Bermudez. They all said Bermudez has been a supportive educator throughout their journey. 

The students will present at the HTCC conference on March 26 at UCI.

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