SSS Student, Kaylee Ramirez, Featured in The Daily Orange

Rising sophomores launch The Mexican Student Association at SU and SUNY-ESF

Meghan Hendricks | Photo Editor

The Mexican Student Association hopes to bring awareness and connection to Mexican culture on SU’s campus in its first year as a registered student organization.

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After attending the fall 2021 involvement fair, friends Kaylee Ramirez, Ivonne Ortega and Andrea Magdaleno realized they hadn’t seen a table for Mexican students at SU and SUNY ESF.

“There was nothing where we could really come together and feel comfortable with people that come from similar backgrounds,” Ramirez said.

Later that semester, Ramirez realized she wanted to organize her own event while standing in the refreshments line at an Orange After Dark movie showing. She proposed the idea of starting a club to Ortega and Magdaleno, who were also at the event. A day or two later, Ramirez said, the idea came to life.

The Mexican Student Association at Syracuse University and SUNY-ESF will debut as a registered student organization during the fall 2022 semester. The association’s executive board hopes to create a space that both unites SU’s Mexican community and welcomes students interested in celebrating Mexican culture, said Ortega, the organization’s president.

The five-member executive board, who are all rising sophomores, formed during the spring 2022 semester.

“The fact that all of us had these conversations as freshmen, and that we’re also Latina, we’re all first generation, I think that’s something that’s very unique about our story,” Ortega said.

Despite a lengthy application process, Ortega credits the organization’s rapid establishment to the entire group’s commitment.

“The only reason that we really got through it was because we worked as a team and were always there supporting each other. We never really fell through a meeting,” she said.

Ortega, who is pursuing a double major in policy studies and political science, said her morals are ingrained in community activism and organizing.

“As president, my goal is to advocate for POC and share a platform with them that will support their voice,” Ortega said.

Alumna Kimberly Tlayaca, who graduated from SU last spring, found out about the Association during her senior year after meeting Ramirez. Tlayaca said she had been planning to bring back Xicanxs Empowering Xicanxs, a similar organization she joined during her freshman year, and was impressed by the preparedness of the association’s executive board.

Tlayaca credits her experience at XEX for motivating her to get involved in other student organizations and to take advantage of school resources, something she said she struggled with as a first-generation student.

“I feel like for first generation students, a lot of the fear is just asking for help in the first place, just because a lot of the process is by yourself,” Tlayaca said.


Although Tlayaca said that XEX became defunct by the start of her junior year, she said the organization felt like home and she was excited for the association to introduce a similar space for students.

“It’s a really nice area of common ground to find your peers and new people around you,” Tlayaca said.

Computer engineering major Kevin Lopez was also a member of XEX and said he will be joining MEXSA as a general member in the fall. Going into his sixth semester at SU, Lopez
remembers the first on-campus event he went to as a freshman: an XEX mixer. The event was pivotal for him, Lopez said, because it helped him feel more at home in Syracuse.

Lopez said he wants to offer support to the association during their growth as he has been involved in a number of other organizations as an SU student.

“I just want people to feel embraced on campus,” Lopez said. “(Since XEX), it’s the first time that Mexicans will have their own platform and voice, and (the executive board) can do so much with it.”

When she first arrived on campus in fall of 2020, rising junior and bioengineering major Shaila Cuellar recalled that COVID-19 restrictions made it difficult for her and her roommate to meet other Mexican students on campus. Cuellar thinks that MEXSA’s presence will make it easier for Mexican students with a similar experience to connect.

“For Mexican students, MEXSA would be that home away from home,” she said. “Just so incoming students are aware that they are not the only Mexican people here, you know?”

Cuellar hopes MEXSA hosts events that will help exhibit Mexican culture like she said the Puerto Rican and Dominican Student Associations currently do.

“With the events that (PRSA and DSA) host, they bring awareness to our campus,” Cuellar said. “In a similar way, I hope that like MEXSA is able to educate people on the culture.”

Secretary Xenia Zolano Doroteo, a double major studying international relations and political science, said that being part of MEXSA’s executive board will provide all members an opportunity to stay connected to their culture while they are away from home.

“We usually share these traditions with our families, and we stay connected through our families. So when we’re not with them, it’s a way for us to continue those traditions,” Doroteo said.

The executive board is still finalizing event planning, Ortega said. She confirmed that MEXSA will be at the fall involvement fair.

Some members of the executive board said they hope their leadership experience will help them achieve not only professional but also personal goals.

As a minority student in a predominantly white institution, marketing management major Andrea Magdaleno said her role as MEXSA’s treasurer gives her a sense of belonging.

“You just feel out of place,” Magdaleno said.

Magdaleno said one of her goals as an executive board member is to make sure the Association remains a part of the campus even after the members graduate from SU.

While still attending SU, Zolano Doroteo said she wants to use her platform to continue to fight for equal and positive representation within the SU community.

“For me, it’s a way to say that…it doesn’t matter what obstacles you can put in front of us or systemic oppression you can put over us, we are here to stay beyond our years,” she said.

Although Ramirez said she knows being vice president will challenge her, she is glad she took the position as it help her break out of her shell and her comfort zone.

“(The Kaylee Ramirez from) two years ago would not be doing this. I was the most shy person,” she said.

Ramirez said she wants to inspire others to do the same.

“As a freshman, I hesitated to join new clubs or join an environment where there’s a lot of people because it can get a little intimidating,” Ramirez said. “I want to be that person, or work alongside people, that… makes (others) feel comfortable in new environments.”