With more than 30,000 students spread all over the University of Colorado's Boulder campus, it is easy to become lost in the shuffle. But for one student, it is his goal to make this university a space where "all different types of folks" can be themselves without feeling threatened or isolated, so they can focus on pursuing "the education that is so important."
Kevin Patterson is a fifth year political science and ethnic studies double major. Kevin strives to promote education but to also shape "well-rounded human beings," he says, especially since the students on campus will be interacting in a larger world where "people with professional degrees are typically the ones with the most power."
Kevin tackles his goals by being a part of different organizations and programs such as Eye-resist, UMAS y MEChA, Center for Multicultural Affairs (CMA), and the AQUTZA program.
As the co-chair of Eye-Resist, Kevin has a lead role in the ethnic studies student group. The group brings out speakers and hosts film screenings of different ethnic studies topics. Eye-Resist attends the ethnic studies conference yearly. Recently, they have been advocating for worker's rights by trying to work with clothing company Alta Gracia Apparel because the company has better working conditions than your average clothing company.
With UMAS y MEChA, Kevin helps promote education for Latino/Latina youth here on campus. The groups also protests yearly against WHINSEC. WHINSEC is a school that promotes "torture tactics to maintain power" especially in regions like Latin America. The group also attends the UMAS y MEChA national convention each year and 2014 is special to the group since it will be the 40th anniversary of Los Seis de Boulder. They will also be celebrating Dia Los Muertos at the end of this month to promote the Latino/Latina culture.
At CMA Kevin is a peer mentor who facilitates workshops to the public about issues of race, ethnicity, gender and class. He is working on a racial conversation series that will help people define race, see how it is intersectional, and see how race works in terms of privilege and power.
In the AQUTZA program created last year, the program brings high school students onto the campus to learn about Latino culture and to motivate students to pursue higher education through creative means such as theater and spoken word. This program also works on developing leadership skills in the youth.
Working in these organizations has built community in Kevin's life since he feels like CU can be very isolating for underrepresented students. He also said that it has made him more engaged with the larger world since a lot of the issues seen here at CU are replicated in the nation and the globe. By working with these groups, students and communities, he's finding effective ways to improve lives and he hopes it will help him to do this on a larger scale in the future.
On personal level, Kevin discussed how shocking it was that he is still "one of the only black males in larger lectures" at CU and he remembered "feeling kinda alone out here." Experiences like these along with the work he has done have shaped how he interacts with other people as a student and as a human being. He said that the "opportunities through these organizations" has widened his viewpoint and makes him feel "more like a global citizen."
Ben Nguyen is a junior at CU studying molecular cellular developmental biology and is SORCE's Inner-Campus Liaison.