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‘A community I could connect and relate to’

Posted 2:36 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022

LASO members pose for a photo during the 2021-22 academic year.

UWL’s Latin American Student Organization provides clarity, community and cultural awareness 

Growing up in the U.S., Ilariah McAnally felt disconnected from their Mexican identity. The Mauston, Wisconsin native didn’t speak Spanish well or celebrate typical Mexican holidays or traditions. It took time to feel proud and open about their identity as a young Mexican individual, says the UW-La Crosse senior and archaeology major. 

Coming into college had challenges of its own, particularly the way Covid-19 damaged relationships and the ease of transitioning into university life. But, as an upperclassman, McAnally has been able to find a community in Latin American Student Organization (LASO). It is one of UWL’s 200 + student organizations on the MyOrgs website

LASO brings sense of community and identity

Ilariah McAnally is a UWL senior and archaeology major. LASO helped McAnnally find community at UWL. 

“I feel like LASO helped me find a community that I could connect and relate to when I had accepted my Mexican identity — accepted as in stating, ‘I’m Mexican no matter what,’” says McAnally. 

The group serves as a place of community for those in the Latin American community on campus. Students in the group explore and embrace Latin American culture, as well as other cultures. They have regular meetings, plans activities, volunteer or simply find space to take a break from the busy pace of college life. LASO will help with campus Hispanic Heritage Month activities and plan a Day of the Dead celebration later this fall. For many members, one of the greatest perks is the connection with other students and their cultures. 

“As a first-year, I joined this group to meet more people and feel more a part of something,” says incoming student Carissa Maske who aims to study microbiology. “I also really wanted to learn more about the Hispanic culture because it seems really interesting, and I want to get involved.” 

Being in the group makes her want to know more about others’ struggles and to be there for them. “I want to reach out to more diverse groups to learn more about everyone and create a bigger network of people I can feel comfortable around,” says Maske. 

My Mexican and American self

Jazmin Gil, LASO president, is a UWL senior and computer science and mathematics major.

LASO helped Jazmil Gil realize that her Mexican and American identities don't have to be separated; she can embrace both at the same time, she says. It also helped her understand others’ perspectives and how they felt attending a predominately-white school. 

“I think being a part of LASO has helped remind me of my culture while I'm away from home and away from the people who knew who I was inside,” says Gil. 

This October LASO is helping to plan Hispanic Heritage Month activities at UW-La Crosse. 

About Latin American Student Organization 

Latin American Student Organization social in 2021. The organization is hosting a Latine Mentoring Social at 5 p.m. Oct. 13, in Hall of Nations, Centennial Hall. All are welcome.

Connect with this student organization

What is the next big event? The next big meeting for LASO is the Latine Mentoring Social at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, in the Hall of Nations, Centennial Hall. Network, win prizes and meet Latine faculty and staff on campus. The event is free and open to all. 

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Who is LASO open to?  Those who identify as Latin American as well as anyone interested in learning more about the community.

How do I join? Join anytime by attending a meeting. More on the MyOrgs website.

What is the primary goal of LASO? LASO is a place of community for the Latin American community on campus. It brings students together while learning more about other cultures and embracing Latin American culture. 


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