Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Isabela Flores (BA ’20 Elementary Education), the new interim coordinator for the Latino Native American Cultural Center (LNACC), wants to show up for young people in impactful ways.

The LNACC, co-founded by University of Iowa College of Education alumna Rusty Barceló (MA ’72, PhD ’80),was created to be a home to support Latinx/a/o and Native American students at the University of Iowa. Flores, from Des Moines, Iowa, wants to continue to provide a safe and supportive place for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) as the new coordinator.

“Higher education institutions were not created with BIPOC or underrepresented students in mind. These institutions support people of dominant identities' needs by providing space physically, mentally, monetarily, etc. and encouragement to take it all up,” says Flores. “Where, then, does this leave those students with non-dominant, intersecting identities? Where are these BIPOC and/or underrepresented students supposed to go?”

Cultural centers provide a crucial space for students of color who are attending predominately white intuitions, Flores says.


Group of students in front of LNACC

“Cultural centers have the potential to provide a space for students to delve into their journey of self-discovery and self-actualization; to feel supported in ways that only their communities can understand and provide; and, most importantly, to take up all of the space that they are deserving of,” says Flores. I have seen the LNACC, and the cultural centers, help positively influence trajectory both within and outside of the University of Iowa for many students, including myself.”

During her undergraduate education at the University of Iowa, Flores also spent her time working at the LNACC. She brought the skills she learned from the LNACC into her experience at the College of Education.

As an undergraduate, the LNACC helped develop and strengthen my critical thinking skills, encouraged me to take deeper looks into systems and the ways they impact underrepresented communities, as well as learning some intersecting pieces as it relates to underrepresented students,” says Flores.“What I learned at the LNACC informed me in the ways I showed up in the College of Education and ultimately pushed me to think about other ways I can support young people. From my personal experience and learning within the College of Education paired with my personal experience and learning from the LNACC, I hope to be able to show up for students in meaningful, individualistic, and impactful ways that leave feelings of validity and importance.”

As she steps into this new role, Flores has a few goals in mind.

“My goal for now is to work alongside a team of 7 brilliant student staffers and 4 other professional staff members to be more intentional on addressing anti-Blackness within ourselves and our communities. Further, I hope to embrace newness in all the forms that they show up during this time. Growth through group accountability and reflection will support this,” says Flores.