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illy Ramirez has created a vehicle for minority, first-generation and low-income students
to get onboard with reading: La Guagua (The Bus). An on-campus reading group that
explores Latino literature, La Guagua was founded a year ago by Ramirez, a part-time
faculty member with MCC's College Access Support Program.
"My goal was to engage students in an informal, extra-curricular learning space where they can
socialize, network and voice their opinions," explained Ramirez. At the same time, he wanted
students to expand their own intellectual horizons and curiosity by learning from others.
La Guagua brings together students from diverse backgrounds to read and discuss the rich
tradition of Spanish-language literature and culture. The reading group has members from
Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Iraq, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico and Haiti.
Readings and discussions are held in Spanish.
Most of the more than 40 people who attend meetings are Middlesex students or alums. They
discuss Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, and other authors.
Ramirez finds that after he invites students, they extend the invitation to others. Gerald Jansen
Ramon remembers meeting Ramirez in an MCC hallway and being asked, "If there was a reading
group, would you participate? My answer was, `Absolutely!' " By reading and discussing Latino
literature, Ramon feels his communication skills have improved.
Vivian Villaman was one of the group's first members. "La Guagua has given me the opportunity to
meet different people who have the same educational objectives as I do."
Ramirez has been pleased to see participants with a wide variety of reading levels willing to
learn and engage in informal spaces outside of the classroom. "La Guagua has a direct impact
on student retention and persistence rates, reducing the achievement gap among Latino, first-
generation college students," he said.
As Villaman shared, "La Guagua has given me the opportunity to create a habit that I never had
before in my life: reading."
Anne Broyles
Exploring Latino
Literature via La Guagua Reading Group
To learn more abouT
These programs, visiT:
Tufts University, and a master's degree in
criminal justice from UMass Lowell.
"I went through similar things many of these
students are going through," he said. "My
parents didn't go to college, but I had an older
brother who did, so I leaned on him.
"A lot of these students' parents are new to
the U.S., and they don't always speak much
English. Often times, the most these parents
can do is to say to their kids, `It's up to you.'
But that's a lot for an 18-year-old to handle.
"They have to finish high school, many are
working part-time jobs to help their families,
many have daycare responsibilities at home
I did. Then they have to take their SATs and
CPTs, and figure out all those deadlines,"
added Tejada.
"It's a lot. So, I'm here to help."
Kathy Register
For more information, contact Jeffrey Tejada,
Director of Diversity Outreach & Recruitment,
at or 978-656-3380
foCus on
Professor Willy Ramirez (standing) at a meeting of La Guagua, the popular Spanish-language reading
group that explores Latino literature.