Image via Kababayan Learning Community (KLC)
“From an article, Filipino-American students have a lower rate of transferring and graduating from community colleges and universities than their immigrant grandparents,” said Dr. Liza Erpelo, an English professor and the coordinator of Kababayan Learning Community (KLC) at Skyline College. KLC together with the Filipino Student Union (FSU), hosted the “Tara Na! Let’s Link Ha!” event on Feb. 4, which was attended by Filipino American educators and student organizations to come up game-changing plans targeted to address this concern.
Nikkie Morales, who is a professor at Napa Valley College (NPC), talked about how students from her college who have attended KLC’s Tara Na! Pasko Na! event “really appreciated the space.”
Last year’s virtual event encouraged more students to be more involved in the community and reach out to more Filipino American students. If plans of the upcoming activities are successful enough, NPC might have a Filipino learning community of their own by the fall 2021 semester.
Janet Mendoza Stickmon, the humanities and philosophy coordinator at NPC, described how having an established Filipino American learning community would enormously benefit their students at NPC.
According to her, the presence of such organizations at their college had been “on and off” the scene in previous years. She had been aware of discussions going around about a Filipino American learning community being in progress of formation and she is on board with the plan for that.
Henry Aronson, who is an English professor from Southwestern College, showed immense support for the students, organizations and goals, noting that he has observed how the Tara Na!-themed events allowed the student leaders to practice “manifesting their leadership” and building a presence in other communities, be they Filipino or non-Filipino.
“Filipinos really just enjoy belonging and being seen,” Aronson said.
Erpelo came up with the idea of throwing a “statewide Fil-Grad” towards the end of spring 2021 semester in order to recognize Filipino American graduates’ academic achievements and involvement in student-organized events and activities.
Over at City College of San Francisco (CCSF), the Philippine Studies Department and the TULAY – Filipino American Student Success Program combined forces to be able to commence a “Fil-Grad for about two years,” according to Darzelle Oliveros, a CCSF student who belongs to those organizations.
Erpelo proceeded to explain the process about how KLC’s virtual graduation was carried out last year in 2020. They collaborated with CIPHER, a hip hop and social justice community at Skyline College, to have a co-graduation because of “how the two (organizations) were connected.”
Aside from the Fil-Grad event, Erpelo brought up graduation stoles that will be sent statewide to the future Filipino American graduates this semester. Nikkie Morales, mentioned previously, had volunteered for creating the Fil-Grad stoles. The organizations were still given the choice to decide on having their own graduation separately from the collaboration. Regardless, Erpelo had given out a task to each organization to start making progress.
“We’re about to put ourselves on the map with this,” Erpelo said.
Erpelo had studied what makes individuals return to KLC since the past 17 years of her career. In her dissertation, she found out that Fil-Am students are given the opportunity to be empowered inside and outside the classroom setting. Equipped with a strong sense of identity and ethnic knowledge, the students are more likely to be grounded, focused, and motivated to strive for success.
“…and this is what I’ve seen — when you see yourself in the curriculum, you’re more likely to do better,” Erpelo said.
The representatives who had participated in the event were Bayan Scholars from Southwestern College, TULAY and Philippine Studies from City College of San Francisco, Napa Valley College, Katipunan from College of San Mateo and Anakbayan from Daly City.