Araceli Laborin checks out the art in Lake Washington Institute of Technology’s new RISE Center. Samantha Pak, Kirkland Reporter

LWTech’s RISE Center creates an inclusive space for students

After three years of planning, Lake Washington Technical Institute of Technology in Kirkland has opened the doors to its new RISE Center.

According to its website, the student center — whose name stands for Resources for Inclusion, Support and Empowerment — “aims to build an equitable and inclusive campus environment for all students.” The center will also provide educational programming and culturally responsive support services.

In addition, the center is a support service for students from “traditionally underrepresented and underserved backgrounds, such as students from minoritized ethnic/racial groups, students with disabilities, first-generation college students…undocumented students, and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community,” the website states.

The center’s opening was celebrated with a dedication ceremony on Oct. 11.

Eric Izaguirre, who is the equity and inclusion coordinator for LWTech and runs the RISE Center, spoke during the event, telling attendees that the center is a place where students can feel supported for who they are. He shared a bit about his college experiences in California and how similar services helped him as a student. Izaguirre said he wanted to provide the same experience for other students.

Another goal of the center, Izaguirre said, is to increase students’ cultural competency so that when they graduate, they have an awareness of working and spending time with people who are different from them as that is something they will encounter in the real world.

Although the center has just opened, Izaguirre said they already have programming for this fall, including community-building sessions during the lunch hours for the LGBTQ community as well as students of color. He said everyone is welcome to these lunches as the focus is for members of the community in question to meet each other and people from outside that community to learn from others’ experiences.

Izaguirre said they are also working on developing community service projects through the RISE Center to provide opportunities for students to contribute to something as well as connect with others through giving back.

Funding for the center comes from LWTech’s Associate Student Government.

ASG president Amanda Pelly said the idea for the center came from one of her predecessors, the ASG outgoing president in 2014. She said it was that president’s goal to create a student center and the following presidents worked to make it happen.

Pelly, who has been part of student government for three years, said they surveyed students for their thoughts on a student center and found that people liked the idea.

While there are a lot of places on campus for students to receive support academically, she said there are not many places for them to get support for who they are as people. RISE is a place where students can relax and just be who they are, Pelly said.

The RISE Center is located in the student mall in the east building on campus, near the cafeteria and coffee cart — where there is a steady flow of students.

Ruby Hayden, vice president of student services at LWTech, is thrilled that the RISE Center is now open, saying it shows the school’s commitment to its students. She added that the center was created with the perspective of inclusion and it has the possibility of transforming education for those students who are marginalized and have been in the past.

“We must be more inclusive,” she said, adding that as a queer woman who came from poverty and has a disability, she could have used similar services in college.

LWTech President Amy Morrison Goings said students voted to fund the center and she expressed her pride in the college for creating it as well as the years of earnest, transparent and soul-searching work people put in to make it happen.

Goings added that the RISE Center represents LWTech’s intention to ensure all students know they are welcome and the school’s commitment to their success by preparing them to thrive in a global workforce. The center is also a signal to the greater community that the school stands for equity, diversity and inclusion.

Following the dedication, people had the opportunity to tour the RISE Center — an experience that was emotional for Araceli Laborin.

The LWTech student said she didn’t know about the center until the day of the dedication when one of her teachers told her about it. Laborin said the RISE Center sounded amazing as it is a move in the right direction to change social norms and have a more inclusive space for students.

“I like it,” she said.

LWTech librarian Greg Bem shows his pledge about what he will rise above during the RISE Center dedication ceremony. Samantha Pak, Kirkland Reporter

An attendee writes out her pledge. Samantha Pak, Kirkland Reporter

Equity and inclusion coordinator for LWTech Eric Izaguirre addresses the crowd at the RISE Center dedication. Samantha Pak, Kirkland Reporter

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