The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

DI Voices | UIʼs cultural houses provide invaluable family, community

The University currently has five cultural centers: La Casa Cultura Latina, Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center, Salaam Middle East & North Africa Cultural Center, the Asian American Cultural Center and the Native American House.

These cultural houses, most of which reside on Nevada Street, can be great resources for the student body, but they are so much more than that.

For many students, the University is a lonely and odd place that is not similar to our home environments at all. These cultural houses provide a space for students to form a community with those who share a similar background.

In my own experience as a Latina student at this institution, I have found comfort and reassurance within the community at La Casa.

I come from a traditional Mexican family. We are very family-oriented and can always count on each other, whether it be financially, with child care or, honestly, anything — I was raised by a network of strong, reliable women.

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Obviously, at school, I am on my own and without the luxury of my family at my fingertips. I came here expecting that I’d have to figure this whole “college” thing out for not only myself, but also my family. I am sure many students face similar pressures.

Through various programs and La Casa Alliance of Student Organizations at La Casa, I have been able to build my own family, despite being away from home. My close friends from high school have also gotten involved with La Casa, and we have formed a tightknit community among ourselves. Spanish, which was something I only used to hear at home, is spoken here too.

It can be scary changing lifestyles, but these resources make it less so.

La Casa has provided me with a network which led me to find a research assistant position aligned with my culture, my sorority and peers who have helped me with my academic journey. I would be lost on campus without La Casa as a resource.

I have grown to be more confident in myself, and I know that if I had not been exposed to La Casa, I would be less comfortable with my identity on this campus.

I imagine that my story with La Casa is similar to other students’ experiences who have gotten involved within their communities, and specifically these cultural houses. Without this space, I would not be where I am today, academically or socially.

Historically underrepresented minority students include those of Hispanic/Latiné/o/a, African American and Native American descent. The term “historically underrepresented” refers to those groups who have struggled to attain access to higher education within the United States. 

We tend to face barriers in our journey to pursuing higher education; these may set us back, but they certainly do not stop us. These cultural houses provide our student population with resources that we would otherwise not have access to.

These spaces allow us to grow within our identities and feel comfortable with who we are. We are able to build our own families here within the walls of these cultural houses and given the tools to blossom academically and individually.


Janessa is a sophomore in LAS.

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