A New Era for ALAS

Teachers attempt to steer the club into a new future

Amid discussions of Latino identity and social issues, Jones students  met for the first ALAS (Association of Latino American Students) meetings of the year, however one familiar face was absent-former English teacher, Ernesto Saldivar.

“Saldivar will be missed for he had a way of digging inside of us and seeing qualities in us that we didn’t even know we had,” said club member Alejandra Alvarez ‘18.

ALAS lost its founder in Saldivar, after he became the new assistant principal of Farragut High School, located on Chicago’s south side.

“He will be dearly missed but the club will move on,” said Teresa Vergara Miranda ‘18.

ALAS is a club designed to empower Latino students and spread awareness of the obstacles they face. Through weekly meetings  members seek ways to strengthen the Latino community within the school. Saldivar had always single handedly sponsored the club, and was  admired by students.

“Saldivar had a way of making you think outside of societal norms and challenged student’s ideas on race and culture,” said Genesis Del Real ‘19.

However, with new sponsorship, comes new challenges. Every club’s sponsor has their own vision or goals set for the club. After so many years in charge of ALAS, replacing Saldivar will be no simple task.

“ALAS was like his baby,” said teacher Olivia Guerrero ‘12. “ALAS is one of the clubs I wish I had joined as a student. I was excited to help out the club, to allow student to have those meaningful discussions I missed out on,” said Guerrero.

She is hoping that her experience with ALAS now will be rewarding.

“We could build off the great things Saldivar did for ALAS, but also make it our own,” said Guerrero.

However, new co-sponsor and art teacher Gabriel Dominguez views his own role as unique and different from Saldivar’s.

“My intentions are not to fill in someone’s shoes, it is to facilitate the space for students who choose to talk about Latin American topics and issues,” said Dominguez. He acknowledges that Saldivar is missed by the student body, but assures that ALAS is, “still moving forward as a club.”

Science teacher Peter Podlipni is currently the first and only non-Latino sponsor that ALAS has ever had. However, he sees great importance in continuing what Saldivar had started.

“It’s important not to forget where you are from,” said Podlipni.

ALAS is a very discussion heavy club, being home to deep conversations about the Latino identity. Podlipni says that he will not be able to have experiences that can be directly related to the students.

“As a non-Latino person, it is important for me not to include myself into conversations where it is not appropriate,” said Podlipni.

There is no doubt that ALAS will construct a new identity this school year. The new sponsors along with the student officers will come together to create a new, safe, and enjoyable learning space for club members.

“We want to establish a community within each other and have people know that they have a support system here at Jones,”  said Berenice Martinez ‘17, club member and officer.

Even after losing their long time sponsor, optimism remains within the organization.

“We cannot wait to see what our new sponsors bring to the table, and to continue to educate one another about the Latino-American student population,” said Alejandra Alvarez ’18.