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Arlyn Moreno Luna was uprooted at the age of 13 when her family moved from Mexico to Oregon. Arlyn knew little English, felt unfamiliar with the new culture, and relied on the companionship of her Spanish-speaking peers at Willamette High School.
Today, Arlyn is a successful fifth-year student completing an Honors Bio-Resource Research major and minors in Toxicology and Chemistry. She is a seasoned member of the Honors Advisory and Activities Committee and language is no barrier between herself and her classmates.
But Arlyn's journey was not without trials. “At first it was difficult to get used to the culture and language,” Arlyn said. “I could speak Spanish with students at Willamette High School. But my family moved to Roseburg, and suddenly my sister and I were the only ones who could speak Spanish. I needed to learn English in order to make friends.”
As time passed, Arlyn mastered the English language and American idioms. At the end of her high school career, she set her sights on a new challenge: a college education. She completed two years at Umpqua Community College before transferring to Oregon State University.
Arlyn was accepted into the University Honors College and immediately got involved in the community by joining the Honors Advisory and Activities Committee. There, she has helped to organize study breaks once a term, food drives for Linn Benton Food Share, and caroling trips to nursing homes.
Though Arlyn's college future was bright, it looked a lot different than what her parents experienced in Mexico. “In America, after high school you go on to university, and then pursue a master's degree or go to medical or law school if you want. In other countries, after high school you go to technical school before university,” Arlyn explained. “My parents went to a Christian university in Mexico, so they didn't understand the process I had to go through.”
Arlyn had additional difficulty helping her Spanish-speaking parents understand her college experience because she could not invite them to Oregon State events catered to English-speaking families.
“During Dad’s Weekend, families usually attend the home football game. But in my dad's culture, soccer is the big sport and football doesn't matter,” Arlyn said. “Or we could go to a comedy show, my Dad wouldn't understand the jokes. I felt like there needed to be more of a connection for Spanish-speaking families.”
So Arlyn challenged herself to bridge the gap between her cultural community and her collegiate community and Mi Familia Weekend was born. Arlyn and other students worked for over a year to orchestrate several events in which about 120 students and 320 family members participated. The event took place in Spring 2012.
“It was really difficult to get support for the event,” Arlyn said. “When I started planning it, it was like a big dream. At first even my younger sister thought it was like a small thing and she didn’t want to volunteer.” But eventually support for the event began to build. “The Honors College said we could count on them, and then other organizations started joining in,” Arlyn said.
During mealtimes over the weekend, keynote speakers such as the Benton County District Attorney John Harrison, gave presentations about the interplay of Hispanic and American culture. There was also a resource fair that gave families the opportunity to learn about some of the great resources Oregon State University has to offer.
“It was cool to see different schools and departments bring forward a Spanish-speaking person who could teach parents about OSU,” Arlyn said.
Mi Familia weekend also brought generations of families closer together. “There was one girl who brought her young nieces all the way from Ontario, and now her nieces want to go to Oregon State,” Arlyn said. “There was even a photo booth there where you could get your pictures taken. About 15,000 people went to look at those pictures on Facebook.”
After she takes classes for optometry school, Arlyn plans to graduate in the spring of 2013 with a major in bio-resource research and minors in toxicology and chemistry. Last spring she was given the honor of being a student speaker at the President’s Dinner, even though she wasn’t graduating at that time.
Arlyn looks forward to having another Mi Familia weekend this coming spring and spreading the idea of Mi Familia to universities across Oregon, Washington, and California.
“I’m proud to be an OSU student because of all of the resources we have and all the research opportunities we have. I just love everything here,” Arlyn said.
Written By Jodie Davaz
Arlyn plans to graduate with an Honors Bacalaureatte Degree in Spring 2013 and is currently working on her University Honors College thesis: Xanthohumol effects on biomarkers of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes under the mentorship of Dr. Fred Stevens and Dr. LeeCole Legette.