An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Seeka C. '21

The Lakeside Latinx affinity group, Si Se Puede, hosted their first after-school retreat of the year in February. Between the two campuses, 4% of Lakeside’s student body self-identifies as Latinx (Latino/Hispanic-American). Our goal as an affinity group is to promote cultural awareness on campus through the students and to provide a safe space for those who identify. This year has felt more together than it has in previous years, and we owe much of this to the increasing interest students seem to have in exploring their Latinx identity. We are a very open community and welcome anyone who is interested in learning about themselves or allyship.

A Lakeside alum, one of the founders and leaders of Si Se Puede from previous years, has also been joining us in our efforts and has brought an encouraging energy to the group as we grow. We also have very supportive advisors, Mara Morales-Ortiz and Antonio Gudino, who truly care about guiding us in the right direction. With so few of us, this retreat was a great opportunity for our community to come together and get to know one-another.

Our retreat was held on campus in the comfort of the Paul G. Allen Athletics Center, where we hosted fun activities, had meaningful conversations, and shared personal experiences both on and off campus. There was food, dancing, music, and best of all, a sense of community. We began with a few rounds of “Kahoot,” where a collection of testimonies, unique facts, and quirks about the Si Se Puede members were shown on a screen, and everyone voted on the person they thought the statement referred to.

Although this was a goofy way to begin, it paved the way to more serious discussions. As a group, we later discussed the intersectionality among common identifiers such as religion, gender, language, socio-economic status, race, and sexuality. More specifically, we touched on the over-sexualization of Latina women in the media, how culture and religion work together to create the compound of a stereotypically “ideal” family structure, how language hurdles divide and connect families, and the ways in which financial privilege plays a role in breaking geographic barriers.

The flow of conversation happened naturally and there was never a moment of silence with the Latin music beating in the background. We even discussed the possibility of changing Si Se Puede to a title whose terminology is racially, culturally, and ethnically inclusive. Because this phrase historically represents the Hispanic population during the Chicano Movement (1970s) and recent immigration reform (2006), we would like to explore the ways in which we can include broader language to demonstrate our representation of the Latinx community as a whole. We shared common interests in music genres like bachata, reggaeton, ranchera, merengue, and Latin pop — some students teaching us some of the dance steps they knew. Si Se Puede also made delicious, fresh guacamole to go along with the other snacks, and overall, the energy was just right.

Learning from others and listening to experiences similar to our own can make us feel less alone, but Si Se Puede does much more than that. The Latinx affinity group gives everyone a place where they feel heard and represented, which, in a quickly-evolving world, is important to maintain so that we may continue to appreciate and celebrate our roots. Lakeside provides the resources and support we need in order to use this empowerment within and beyond the walls of our classrooms, and we are excited to share the aspects of ourselves that contribute to enriching the Lakeside community.