By Geoffrey Mosher
Jay Ramirez is an international student that found it really hard to adjust at first in Canada and at Centennial College. He wanted to go back home, but having the club experience changed that. It sparked a desire in him to build a community by sharing experiences with other students and helping each other out.
He explains that the Filipino club isn’t just for Filipino students, but for everyone. Clubs provide an opportunity for students to share their interests, cultures and hobbies with everyone and to build community and connections with students that weren’t there before.
How did you get involved with the Filipino Association?
I actually got started with CISA (Centennial International Student Ambassadors) and I think there were two or three Filipino members of CISA. Justin suggested we start a Filipino club. Then next thing you know we had this club.
What was the process like starting the club?
It started out with someone taking the initiative of gathering all the people interested, and then deciding whoever gets the (executive) positions; president, vice president. Then getting all those interested members, because we need at least 10 members and five executives.
We knew a number of Filipinos that were enrolled in the summer, so we took their names and were in contact with CCSAI Engagement Coordinators, Loise and Justin. They helped us apply for the club, then we got all the requirements for the group and got ratified.
Would you say it was a hard process?
It wasn’t really hard, but I guess the challenge was getting all those executives to really get the position they wanted because… someone would really have to step up and get the position of president. We were like pointing at each other and no one wanted to take the president, so I took it,
and it was fun.
How has the experience of club president been?
It was a bit challenging because I’ve never had this position before. I was manager at work but this was kind of different because we are dealing with students. I was nervous at first, but I think what made it easy was the support of the leaders here; from the CCSAI, and from CISA, Loise was really helpful, Miguel from International Education. They helped us really plan out for the events and share their experiences with events planning and how to deal with students, how to promote the clubs. They really helped us to apply for the ratification and approval of our events, what to put in those forms that we were filling out.
It was easy for us and it’s all because of them.
What kind of events have you done?
We had our first event a couple of weeks ago. It was a launch party. It was held at the Student Centre Clubland. We had the introduction of the club. So we had our members as well as the guests that we invited. There weren’t only Filipinos there; there were Mexicans, Indians, and Koreans. We wanted to welcome them and let them know that it’s open for all. We wanted to share Filipino culture and also build a community in school, build a support group and that’s what our aim is; to build a community and a family at school. Which is not only for Filipinos but also for everyone that likes to share that experience with us.
What are your goals to build that community for the rest of the year?
We’re creating a Facebook group where everyone can share their stories, share their experiences, share if they need help and they can ask for assistance. They can message everyone that is in the group and actually ask everyone else to join if they want to.
Do you have any advice for students looking to start their own club?
My advice is don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to ask. People are afraid of starting something because they are afraid they might make mistakes, or they might do something that could expel them from school or something. I have those fears, but you should always ask if you’re not sure about anything and there’s always help for everything. We have really good help from the school and they really are advocating for these kinds of events and groups, students supporting each other.
I am really glad to have been a part of CISA first and now this Filipino club because if it wasn’t for CISA, I wouldn’t be able to be a part of this club. CISA was really the stepping-stone of this whole club thing. I started just wanting to help out and share my experience with international students and then from there, we have created this Filipino club.
I encourage students to join all the organizations we have at school like the CCSAI or CISA and that’s where they start. Then they get to meet other people who share the same interest, or language or culture and then through that they create a group of their own and collaborate with other people and clubs as well. I think that’s the best part of it. It’s creating your own, then spread out and making it bigger, including some more people in it and having fun!