Hugo Sanchez Garcia

Valuing the Unpaid Labor of Students of Color
Story by Mary Gallagher

Senior in Marketing with minors in Entrepreneurship and Innovation as well as Education and Social Justice

Sanchez grew up in Lake Chelan, where at the time very few Latinxs went on to pursue higher education. Now, his goal is to build the expertise and experience to be the kind of compassionate, inspiring school administrator he needed when he was younger. “Being where I am today, I feel like I hold a huge responsibility to make it that much easier for the folks coming in,” he says. “What would have made my transition better four years ago?”

Each year, students of color volunteer hundreds of hours to organize events out of the Ethnic Student Center, such as performances, night markets, and celebrations. For the community at large, these events celebrate the richness of culture and diversity of the campus community. But the students whose heritage and identity is represented in these events aren’t just building their resumes by pulling together fun food and entertainment, he says. They’re creating spaces that provide the kind of affirmation that can be hard to come by on a predominately white campus.

And the students who need the events the most, Sanchez says, tend to be overextended already with school, work and often family obligations – even without the burden of planning cultural events that contribute to their own survival. The kicker, Sanchez says, is later seeing photos of these volunteer-run events used to publicize Western and its cultural diversity. The over-burdened students of color need help, Sanchez says, and the university needs to show it truly values their work.

The solution: Compensate members of Ethnic Student Center clubs who organize cultural events.

Last year, Sanchez turned his $1,500 Changemaker Fellowship into a 150-hour work-study position to organize the Ethnic Student Center’s first Night Market, bringing together clubs, community groups and vendors. The funding allowed him to work fewer hours at his paid jobs – hours he could put into planning or schoolwork. He’d like to see compensation available to more students working to organize ESC events, whether it’s work-study funds, an internship or an independent study project.

How you can help: “Take this as your invitation to end complacency and be part of the solution,” Sanchez says. “For those of you who want to see the system shift, this is how you can support us: with knowledge, resources and the occasional nod of approval.”

is editor of Window magazine

Video by Suzanne Blais and Rhys Logan, '11