first_imgBilly Vela, the director of La CASA, said the floor also welcomes residents who don’t identify as Hispanic or Latinx as long as they’re willing to learn about new cultures.   “There is a deep sense of culture,”  said Ernesto Ortiz Zamora, a freshman majoring in mechanical engineering. “I feel like we all have this open-door policy where we can really talk to one another.” This lively environment is reflective of the residents themselves, who constantly visit one another’s rooms and embrace the Latin sense of community.  However, for most, El Sol y La Luna helps build a sense of community for its residents. Roman Rodriguez, a freshman majoring in architecture, said living on the floor has allowed him to reconnect with his Latino heritage through weekly meetings, hangouts and talks. Rodriguez, who grew up in a military family and moved frequently, said he often felt cut off from his culture. Reds, blues and yellows line the hallways of the sixth floor of Fluor Tower Residential College, adorned with paintings of suns and moons done in the style of Mexican folk artists. From behind the doors of a few rooms peek Latin American flags and small trinkets. The space is home to El Sol y La Luna, a residential community dedicated solely to Latinx culture at USC that helps soften the transition to college for the small number of Latinx students attending the University.   “It’s nice to go home and feel at home,” Arias said.  “For me it was the opposite … I grew up speaking Spanish, it was my first language and I wanted to find that same family here,” Castillo said.  Senior Director for Residential Education Emily Sandoval said these spaces create a community for students to connect with one another, learn about their identities and form relationships that will help them succeed during college.   Freshman computer engineering and computer science major Nick Imig, who is not Latino, was randomly assigned to El Sol y La Luna .  Other residents, like Selene Castillo, a freshman majoring in international relations, wanted to continue to feel connected to their heritage back home by finding a same similar of community at USC.  “Even though we aren’t Latinos, they always try to include [me and my suitemates] in all their events,” he said. “They want us to be immersed in their culture too. Just the other night, one of them had their mom bringing us flan.”  But the floor does much more for its residents than simply help them find their niche. El Sol y La Luna collaborates frequently with La CASA, a Latinx organization on campus. Jennifer Arias, a freshman majoring in theater on the floor’s executive board, said they plan group outings to attend events on campus. Earlier this month, they coordinated an outing to a campus event that hosted John Leguizamo, a well-known Latino actor. La CASA also plans events for holidays like Día de los Muertos. “I came across [El Sol y La Luna] when I was looking for housing options; I heard that there was a Latino floor, and I thought that was a good way for me to come back to the culture,” he said. “I didn’t grow up speaking Spanish, but most people here do at least understand it.”  El Sol y la Luna, the Latinx floor in Fluor Tower, also welcomes students who don’t identify as Latinx or Hispanic to live on the floor and learn about the culture through events and experiences with their fellow residents. (Andrea Diaz | Daily Trojan) Imig’s suitemate, Carlos Casillas, identifies as Latino but said he didn’t choose to live on the Latinx floor — he was also randomly assigned. Casillas, a freshman majoring in philosophy, politics & law, said he thinks residential communities can be isolating and limit students to one group of potential friends.  “Starting college can be challenging for many students, but having a place to live where students can create a sense of family — having similar traditions and cultural backgrounds — can soften the experience,” Sandoval said. Sandoval also acknowledged that according to USC, the Latinx community only made up 15% of the student body in Fall 2018. Sandoval said that for that reason, these spaces are necessary to help students find and connect with one another and connect.   Freshmen residents Selene Castillo and Vanessa Nuñez study in the lounge of El Sol y La Luna, a Latinx floor in Fluor Tower that brings together Latinx students and others wanting to learn more about Latinx culture to build a community.  (Andrea Diaz | Daily Trojan) “The floor has also had non-Latinx members throughout the years, and the same goal [to successfully transition to USC] was set for them because all students living on the floor should feel like they belong by community connections being made on the floor,” Vela wrote in an email.  Andrea Diaz, the residential assistant for El Sol y La Luna, is the photo editor for the Daily Trojan.last_img

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