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Erica L. Petty

George Vlahakis
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Last modified: Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Latino student provides opportunities for others

EDITORS: For more information about La Casa, contact Lillian Cassillas at 812-855-0174 or

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Bloomington senior Edward Vargas does not like to point out his disadvantages, but chooses to take advantage of every opportunity given to him, while at the same time helping others seek those opportunities.

According to Vargas, by government standards he lives in poverty, but from his standpoint he has had everything he's ever needed. "I don't think I am poor personally. I know a lot of others who are doing worse," said Vargas, a native of San Antonio, Texas, who transferred to IU in the summer of 2000.

Vargus first became interested in IU because of the McNair Scholarship his older brother Phillip received. Now himself a senior and a McNair Scholar, Vargas has established himself in the Latino community.

It was during Vargas' summer visit to IU that he became involved with La Casa, the university's Latino/a cultural center. In Texas, Vargas already was involved with justice issues in his community. The cultural center influenced him to bring his work to the IU campus. According to Vargas, La Casa is a gateway to the university. It helps him understand how the university system works and enables him to communicate to others on campus and in the community about issues facing Latinos.

But Vargas said he wants to be a positive influence on all people, not just Latinos. He doesn't look at his accomplishments as awards, but as something he is supposed to do. Some of his accomplishments include helping to start the fourth annual Indiana Latino/a Collegiate Leadership Conference on March 1. It is through his accomplishments that he wants to help the Latino community indirectly.

"When you look at him, you would not guess how much he has done. He is humble," said Lillian Cassillas, director of La Casa. Vargas works to open doors for other Latino/a students in La Casa by providing information that will help them succeed.

The Latino/a Leadership Conference is an idea that Vargas brought with him to IU from Texas. The conference is intended to serve as a tool of empowerment for the Latino community. Through the conference, he wants to rid Latino/as of stereotypes and express the importance of literacy, scholarship and higher learning.

It is an annual spring event that brings Latino/a people together from universities throughout Indiana to discuss the importance of education, and lets others know that the IU Latino/a community is serious about education.

Vargas is earning his undergraduate degree in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, which he expects to complete this May. Eventually he hopes to pursue a doctorate in public policy.

Vargas said he has one word of advice for students, and that is "imagine."

Hometown information: Edward Vargas, 11625 Fischer, Von Ormy, Texas