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For College senior Laura Trujillo, La Casa Latina Center has become her home away from home.

Whether advocating for nationwide and local issues with the political and cultural group Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan , supporting Latin American and Latino Studies programs on campus, or just socializing at the Center, Trujillo says La Casa helped make her Penn experience even more amazing.

“It might be cheesy, but I’ve formed long-lasting relationships with a great group of people — that moral support definitely made my transition and the whole experience much easier,” she explained.

Today, Trujillo is giving back to the community that helped her initially find her place at Penn.

As the chair of MEChA — the group responsible for the founding of La Casa — Trujillo keeps herself busy.

Current projects include promoting the departmentalization of the Latin American and Latino Studies Program and advocating for the DREAM Act, a piece of proposed legislation that would make citizenship easier for illegal immigrants attending college in the United States.

And, just as others did for her, Trujillo is reaching out to the incoming freshmen that will soon fill her shoes.

She explains that La Casa helped her find her way at Penn after a cross-country move from Los Angeles.

“A lot of my friends were from L.A., but it can be scary coming to a big city, especially if you’re not from the East Coast,” she explained.

Fortunately, Trujillo’s older sister ­— a 2005 Penn graduate — helped her navigate even before arrival on campus.

She too was part of La Casa and her inside knowledge helped make Trujillo’s decision to attend Penn much easier.

“Being able to just go [to La Casa] really helps when you’re having a bad day — it’s nice to go there, where they can give you advice and help steer you on way,” she said.

And a lot of that La Casa motherly comfort comes from one of the center’s longest leaders, Office Coordinator Maritza Santiago-Torres.

Trujillo explained that Santiago-Torres was an integral part of the Center’s opening and early operation.

For the first year or so of the program, it was Santiago-Torres guiding the center — and the students.

“She’s like everyone’s second mom,” laughs Trujillo. “I cant imagine being involved in La Casa Latina if not for her.”

But just as Santiago-Torres has earned a place in the heart of the La Casa community, Trujillo too is paving her way.

Even though she’s a chemistry major with her eyes on graduate school, Trujillo’s natural instinct seems to reach out.

“Down the road, I know I will always be bringing it back to the community and getting involved in some way,” explained Trujillo.

And when she helped bring Dolores Huerta, president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation and co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America, to campus last January, it was in some way a glimpse of Trujillo’s potential.

“She’s an amazing person,” says Trujillo, who was able to speak with her in person after the event.

“She’s been such a great leader to the Chicana movement and played such an important role,” said Trujillo.

“If not for her, farm workers wouldn’t even have the simple necessities of life.”

Right now, Trujillo is working on her own project: helping the children of undocumented aliens find a way to receive a quality education.

“Somebody that’s really trying to give back to the community and to the school should be given a chance,” said Trujillo, noting that many children of illegal aliens don’t have a choice and want to succeed in this country.

And her work with MEChA and the support from La Casa is only making Trujillo’s mission all the more likely.

“It’s great to see how much La Casa has grown,” explained Trujillo.

“The fact that it’s still going strong shows how positive its impact [has been] on the lives of so many Penn students, faculty, and staff.”

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