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March 27, 2024

MSU police and CAMP Latine community-building program a success

For the first time at Michigan State University, the College Assistance Migrant Program, or CAMP, the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions, or OCAT, and the MSU Department of Police and Public Safety, or MSU DPPS, joined together for a community-building event at the MSU police department.

Leeslie Herrera, Marlon Lynch and Elias Lopez pose for a photo

Leeslie Herrera a former CAMP scholar and the first graduate assistant at MSU DPPS, served as the student intelligence analyst and helped organize the gathering, which took place this past November. Using her connections, Herrera worked with her supervisor, Ryan Doyle, who serves as the director of the Support Services Bureau for MSU DPPS and has an interest in diversity, equity and inclusion and wanted to learn how to support different communities. 

“People often interact with police during a moment of crisis or high-stress situations. MSU police officers meeting with members of our Spartan community before such a situation provides an opportunity to build a relationship,” said Doyle. “This enables our Spartan community members to ask questions about policing, inform them of what to expect when interacting with a police officer and have crucial conversations about concerns, fears or past experiences they may have had with the police.”

Early in the fall semester of 2023, Herrera arranged for the two communities to come together. The CAMP and MSU DPPS teams first met in September and then, leading up to the event, continued to meet monthly to discuss what community building would look like between the two groups.

Herrera said, “Maybe this will lead to more community-building events with other groups or organizations, opening the doors for others interested in fostering that positive connection/relationship with MSU DPPS here on campus.”

support dog River sits in the middle of students

After many joint discussions and back-and-forth on ideas, the two groups developed a working framework for the event.

Immediately, Doyle along with Lieutenant Kimberly Parviainen, Sergeant Dwayne L. Jones and MSU DPPS community liaisons began planning and offered the community room to host the event. CAMP knew that students enjoy food familiar to their culture and that it would bring people together. CAMP collaborated with OCAT to provide food, including a menu of tacos, menudo and aguas frescas. 

Community building requires a commitment from individuals, whether it’s a police officer or whoever. It takes coming and working out of their space, having intentional conversations and being part of the students’ community,” said CAMP Associate Director Elias Lopez.

On the evening of the event, the community room inside MSU DPPS welcomed more than 70 students, staff and officers. CAMP and MSU DPPS had an agenda, but as CAMP students opened up, attendees began to have conversations, ask questions and listen to the officers’ stories.

“Collaborating with student leaders and communities such as CAMP is valuable, and constant engagement is important to help build these relationships and ensure students feel safe, heard and supported during both good and critical situations,” said Marlon Lynch, former vice president and chief safety officer. 

As the event continued, topics followed the students’ flow of conversation as the group enjoyed Mexican and Latin music playing in the background, shared a meal together and met River, the new MSU DPPS comfort dog. 

students sing karaoke while sitting and holding a microphone and laughing

“This event was a historic moment for CAMP students, as they were in a space where they could initiate conversations with officers, learn from each other, and build trust among two different communities,” said Migrant Student Services Director Luis Alonzo Garcia.
As the event ended, MSU DPPS officers were excited to see CAMP students bring laughter and liveliness to the police building. Several students started a karaoke session, singing songs by Don Omar, Karol G, Prince Royce, and other Latin musicians. Doyle said, “It was amazing to see the students sharing their culture, passion, and love for life with us in our community room.”

By: Luz Vazquez

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