“A Real Desire to be a Part of Meaningful Work”

Reflection by Myra Rodríguez, former staff writer/ artist for QOS
I began attending NEIU in the fall of 2004 and was a full-time student. That first year involved attending class and quickly leaving campus to continue with my life. I felt no real connection to my university outside of the classroom. But, in the fall of 2005 my friend Xavier “Xavi” Luis Burgos transferred over to NEIU and was curious about Union for Puerto Rican Students (UPRS) and Que Ondee Sola (QOS).  I recall him asking me to accompany him to the QOS office, just to see what the organization was about.  I never imagined how much of my life would change just from stepping into that office.
I was introduced to a group of people that were passionate about making real changes within the university and positive changes for Puerto Rican/Latin@ students. They were fighting for a Latin@ Cultural Center, to make Latin American studies into a major, and how to increase the retention rate of Puerto Rican/Latin@ students. I was introduced into a world I had no idea existed on my campus. I felt a direct connection with the group and a real desire to be a part of meaningful work.One thing I will always appreciate about UPRS and QOS was the encouragement they gave to get to know one’s history. Before being a part of the organization, I really didn’t know much about Puerto Rican history. But, through cultural events organized by UPRS, community work in Humboldt Park, and Professor José López’s class, I discovered a different type of pride and empowerment. Wanting to continue to connect with my roots, I decided to live in Humboldt Park.  My mother had grown up in Humboldt Park after migrating from Puerto Rico, so it meant much more for me to live there. As a community member I had a responsibility to contribute to my neighborhood. I involve myself in community events, support local businesses, and I work down the street from where I live conducting nutrition/health workshops for community residents.  I know now what it means to be a part of a community.

I will forever be grateful to UPRS, QOS and the relationships I built throughout the years because in many ways it opened my eyes to the realities that exist in this world. And, as I write this I recall something that Professor José López said that will always resonate in me: “I believe to be human is to be able to engage in the exercise of freedom. By freedom I mean understanding the world about me, acting responsibly upon the world, and most importantly transforming that world.”

Originally Published in QOS April 2012 Special Edition, Vol. 40 No. 4

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