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Los Diablos alumni network empowers Latino community to challenge stigmas

College is a place where people of all walks of life come together in the common pursuit of education. However, even in the middle of such a melting pot, it can be difficult for minority students to find their place. 

The Los Diablos alumni network at ASU is giving Latino students the tools to gain access to higher education and challenge stigmas associated with their heritage.

The Hispanic community has a large presence at ASU — making up about 18 percent of the student body, according to the University's latest enrollment numbers.

Luis Heredia, president of the Los Diablos alumni chapter, said the group was established in 1984 to help Hispanic students through college with financial aid and community service opportunities.

"Los Diablos is not your typical alumni chapter who meets for happy hour or watches football games," he said. 

Serving as president for a two-year term from 2015 to 2017, Heredia has not been president for long, but he has witnessed members of Los Diablos graduate college and become leaders in their own respective communities. 

"The first chapter founding members are former Congressman Ed Pastor and attorney Danny Ortega, who were committed in helping the Latino community," Heredia said.

Heredia said throughout its history, Los Diablos has contributed $2.8 million toward scholarships for Latino student. He said currently, 22 students are going through college with financial aid from Los Diablos. 

In addition to receiving full-tuition scholarships, Los Diablos scholars are assigned to a board member who serves as a mentor, advocate and university liaison for the academic year.

Although Los Diablos provides financial assistance to Latino students, those students may still need to overcome cultural stigmas. 

Avital Simhony, a professor at the School of Politics and Global Studies at ASU, said she believes that grassroots groups such as Los Diablos are most effective when they have face-to-face interactions with voters.

"The thing about changing people's minds about entrenched views or prejudices — a lot of it requires more face-to-face meetings," she said. 

Simhony also said it is important for students in such a position to actively collaborate with others and understand all points of views equally. 

"People talk," she said. "You want people to talk, you want people to raise their ideas and figure out what they think.  One has to take them seriously — if you want to change people's mind, you have to respect their views." 

Paul Lewis, a professor at the School of Politics and Global Studies at ASU, specializes in American politics, and said people groups who face stigmas are faced with an unfortunate dichotomy — although they undergo hardships, sometimes they can effect change as a result of their difficult circumstances. 

"Backlash can be a pretty good motivator to get groups organized," he said.

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