196: Nurturing Queer, Nonbinary, Central American, and Undocumented Students with Rony Eduardo Castellanos Raymundo

196: Nurturing Queer, Nonbinary, Central American, and Undocumented Students with Rony Eduardo Castellanos Raymundo


In this episode of the Grad School Femtoring Podcast, I interview Rony Eduardo Castellanos Raymundo, who shares their insights on nurturing queer, nonbinary, Central American, and undocumented students. Rony is a queer/nonbinary, Central American, formerly undocumented, and higher education professional. Through mentors, teachers, professors and the love from their community, they have not only earned their degrees from West Los Angeles Community College, UC Santa Barbara and UCLA, but have been nurtured to continue to exist and resist.

They are currently working at CSU Dominguez Hills as the Program Director for La Casita: Latinx Cultural Resource Center, which provides holistic support services to Latinx/e students to complete their higher education degree and soar beyond college.

In this episode we cover: The importance of creating nurturing and safe spaces for underrepresented populations. The transformative power of community support and reciprocal mentorship for formerly undocumented migrants. Finding inspiration and support from mentors and a vibrant community of queer and trans students. Redefining activism and working within the system while acknowledging limitations. And advice for individuals seeking self-discovery, self-care, representation, and authenticity.


You can connect with Rony on Instagram and on LinkedIn.

Follow me on your favorite social media platforms: ⁠⁠⁠Instagram⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠LinkedIn⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠YouTube⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠Facebook⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠⁠TikTok⁠⁠⁠, and ⁠⁠⁠Twitter⁠⁠⁠

Sign up for my ⁠⁠⁠free email newsletter ⁠⁠⁠to learn more about grad school, sustainable productivity, and personal development

Get my free 15-page ⁠⁠⁠Grad School Femtoring Resource Kit ⁠⁠⁠

To download episode transcripts and access more resources, go to my website: ⁠⁠⁠https://gradschoolfemtoring.com/podcast/⁠⁠⁠


*The Grad School Femtoring Podcast is for educational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for therapy or other professional services.*

Send in a voice message: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/gradschoolfemtoring/message

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 0:02

Welcome back everyone to another episode of the Grad School Femtoring Podcast. This is your host, Doctora Yvette. And today we're gonna be talking about how we nurture queer, nonbinary Central American and undocumented students in higher ed, our special guests happens to be one of my favorite people. Their name is Rony Eduardo Castellanos Raymundo and I've had the privilege to work with them more closely in the last year. Rony is a queer, nonbinary Central American, formerly undocumented, and a higher education professional. Rony was born in Guatemala and migrated to the US at age 15. Through mentors, teachers, professors and the love from their community. They have not only earned their degrees from West LA Community College, UC Santa Barbara and UCLA, but have been nurtured to continue to resist and exist. They enjoy dancing karaoke coffee shops, nature, rivers and being by water, as well as creating a different future for the communities they serve. They're currently working at CSU Dominguez Hills as the program director for La Casita Latinx Cultural Resource Center. La Casita provides holistic support services to Latine/e students to complete their higher education degree and soar beyond college. Welcome to the show, Rony.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 1:33

Thank you Doctora Yvette Martinez-Vu, it is a pleasure to be here with you and in an honor to be part of the beautiful femtoring podcast. So muchas gracias.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 1:42

Thank you. No, no muchas gracias a ti. I am so happy to have you here today. And I would love for you to get us started by sharing a little bit more about who you are, what you do your background, your backstory, whatever you're comfortable sharing.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 1:56

Yeah, thank you. So as you mentioned, I have a long name, but which I really now am proud to say out loud. I think that when I migrated to the US, was more of a first and last name. Right. And so I think there's been a lot of beautiful work on saying Rony Eduardo Castellanos Raymundo, he, they pronouns in being able to get where I'm at, right and knowing that that wasn't where I was 10 years ago. And so it's been beautiful as you share, being able to be nurtured by the people, that community. And so for me, and community is really important. I am the oldest of three siblings, my family remained somewhat similar. So mostly my mother and my sisters, and I. My father lives in the US, as well as other family members.

I think when I think about family separation, or living across my land, America, different borders is something that I, it's always mindful and dear to me, because those experiences are very different. I mean, I think as I began to explore a little bit more of my identity, I began to feel more comfortable. And so I think I having even as I'm saying this to you right now, I feel so happy for my younger self. To say, to vision of the self now, and been able to say, hey, like, thank you for everything you did. And even if you were scared at that time, because because of you at that time, I'm able to be here. And so that's a little bit more about me. On the fun side, I feel that I'm always moving around if I could, like. I wanted to be a dancer, that was one of my dream. I love that. But I'm always playing music, I'm always thinking and having ideas and sharing, and I just love to be surrounded by people. And, of course, I love my own time, but I always enjoy being in community. So that's one of the biggest things for me.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 3:44

Great, great. So today, we're talking about a lot of different things. And I would love to hear a little bit more about maybe your higher ed journey and a little bit about like mentorship and support. And I know you said community is really big for you. And so if you can talk a little bit about that. And then maybe we can talk about mentorship as it relates to other folks who might also have intersecting marginalized or intersecting underrepresented or oppressed identities in higher ed. So maybe a little bit about you, and then we can kind of tie it into, you know, supporting other folks who might be navigating similar experiences.

Unknown Speaker 4:28

Yeah. You know, one of the things I actually was on a panel this past Monday with a couple of colleagues for what they were calling now, newcomers, right. So students who are in high school for migrated to the US, and so they're learning more about and building that community right here. And so one of the things that I remember seeing was they, they were asking, what can you, what can you share with us to motivate us or to stay motivated? And so I realized that that was not only more than three times that was asked. So I feel that nowadays, when you want to connect this to the mental health, which is really important, because I'm someone who still struggles with depression, anxiety, and also challenge myself to know that in order to heal, I may have to do the things that I don't want to do. Right? Whether it be seeking therapy or seeking community or asking for support when I don't feel like it, right.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 5:27

And so for example, I think when it comes to undocumented students or queer folks, there's not one way to be, right. So there's many complexities of that journey, as policies and things change in the country, but also in Latin America, in the world, right. And so I think about, for example, when I migrated to the US, I was 15 years old. And I think that something that I'm challenging myself to do is, we always hear about the sad story. So the tragic stories of migration, immigration. And then we hear the other side of, um, I'm falling into the good immigrant narrative, right. Which is, I do well, in school, I am the immigrant that's shining, right? And then I know artists like Julio Salgado have done a lot of undocu queer art Yosimar Reyes, right. So folks who have been doing some of that work, really inspired. And I also have not seen myself as a Central American Guatemalan person and some of that work. Right. And so I know there's a collective of folks out there doing them. But I think that one of the things that I think about is also what does it mean to not be a good immigrant, right, folks that maybe didn't have a chance to go higher ed. Or it wasn't because they didn't want to, right. And so they're is really challenging that idea.

Because for me, my dad, when I came to the US, I came to live in South Central Los Angeles. And he's a construction worker. And he was very adamant about you need to be enrolled in school. And so just a little bit of that very quickly, I crossed the border twice. And so one of the challenging things was that I was released to my dad under the condition that I had to go to immigration court once a month to check in with them, right. And so I think that was at the beginning of seeing how the systems work, not to support folks, right, but to figure out how to remove them or displace them. And so in order to remain, I had to be enrolled in school and be a good student. And so I think that was some of the things that I was challenged, right? Because without even knowing I was falling into this, like, look around me, he's learning English, he's doing so well. And this good immigrant narrative, right.

And so, you know, being here, I remember I was sharing this week, how I used to cry, and I said, I did not want to be here, I want to go back to my mom, to my sister's, the comida, the food was not the same. And so I think that and the cultura, right. And here in South Central LA, we have Black African American folks. And then some Central American folks, right. So even to find that Central American cultura or culture was a little rough, because it's varied pockets in different areas of LA. But simply to go back to your question.

I think that, for example, mentorship became very important. And so when I enrolled, Manual Arts High School, and then we had a neighbor that was working at a charter school, and she came to our parents and said, hey, this charter school is better than the school, you should put your children there. So funny enough, I'm also product of a charter school system, which is a whole nother thing. Now, once I, you know, started to learn more about different systems of education. And when I arrived to the school is Bright Star. Yeah, and we were the first ever class to graduate. We were about 20 seniors, and I was placed in 10th grade. And so I remember like not knowing much about English. One thing that they said was, don't talk to Rony in Spanish, like he has to learn English.

And so I think from that moment, it became interesting to me that my bilingualism, or my second language was something that had to be suppressed, as long as well as my voceo right, which is how you say vos in Central American. I think that was also an identity kind of crisis in a way. Because then I started to adopt some sort of Mexican accent. And so when I would call my mom, she would say o suenas como Mexicano. And you know to vocear, I would say voz to her and you'll get shamed, right I used to get shamed for that, right. And so, when I got there, I remember having teachers who really were very intentional about their we'll see how much I will struggle but they would help me and so I think that's where it started.

And so I have one particular mentor, her name is Sandy Chavez, who used to be my English teacher in high school who took me under her wing. And interestingly enough, this is kind of getting a little bit ahead. But she and I, as we became mentors, and we transition to being friends, we ended up both being a UCLA at the same time. So she was your educational doctorate, and I was finishing my master's. And so we ended up graduating together. And for our sashes, we had one this mentor and the other one that said mentee. So beautiful to like, never imagine that, you know, someone so pivotal, like her, like, helping me apply to college, what we were going to end up, you know, working together. So I think the gift of mentorship comes in many ways and many genders and many forms. I also learned about mentorship being transformational and reciprocal. And so one of the things that she really worked on with me was, there isn't one way to like the mentor holds more knowledge than the mentee. It's like we're really both learning from each other and evolving. So that was that's really beautiful, and apply it to like the different ways that not only work, but that I move in community.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 11:07

Wow, wow. Yeah. But I mean, a couple of things. The first thing that I heard was you talking about the complexities of, you know, the immigrant experience and challenging the like, good immigrant, what is it, the narrative, and allowing space for nuance, allowing space for different experiences. But then at the same time, having to navigate a very difficult system that's trying to push you out, that's trying to send you back, and having to do things that still follow that narrative as a means of survival. And then along the line, finding individuals that are able to support and help and nurture and to build community, and then that beautiful full circle moment of you graduating with your mentor, and, and having this beautiful reciprocal lateral relationship. So that's, that's really, really beautiful. And I feel like you already kind of, in some way started to answer the next question that I was going to ask is having to do with how do we support students who are navigating multiple types of identities multiple underrepresented, or however you want to call them like, marginalized, underrepresented, or oppressed identities in higher ed spaces.

And even outside of that, because I mean, we're talking about nurturing specifically, queer students, nonbinary students, Central American students, undocumented students, all of those are. Like, each each one in and of itself can be its own topic, its own episode, its own research, its own everything. But I think it's important to mention all of them at once, because it's also part of that conversation of the complexity and the nuance of our identities. And you happen to have one of these experiences, but there are I'm sure other folks out there who are going to listen to this episode and feel seen, heard, represented, you know, how you said earlier you're like I see some folks who are doing this work, who are also Central American who are also this and that we're also queer, but I don't see myself represented. I would love maybe to talk about a little bit, a little bit more about that. But like, you know, what other types of narratives, what other types of identities or other types of experiences can be represented? And I guess, because you're also in higher ed, yeah, going back to continue to support these populations, like maybe expanding on that, too.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 14:12

Yeah, no, thank you. You know, the first thing that you can take into mind when you say that because like, for example, today, I have more of a beard, right. Sometimes I wear my lipstick.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 14:23

Your beautiful purple scarf.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 14:27

And feel free like I really want this to be a back and forth to feel free to interfere as well, pero. To be honest, I think one of the things is like, I never thought that I would right now really settling into the non binaryness, if you will. I have questioned. I'm like, am I trans? That's one thing that I always think of. And then that's the beautiful thing about I wish in the cis-tems and cis-world that people were more comfortable about exploring their identities their gender, their sexuality so that they're not just a binary right or things here and there, but that there is a spectrum and there is a beauty in that. I will not be able to be where I'm at today had it not also been for the undergraduate students at UC Santa Barbara.

So just to kind of like, give you a little bit of context there, so when I unfortunately, right my, my dad had a lot of very machista ideologies and things that I, you know, I now have a beautiful relationship with my dad who's like, you know, working but at the time, unfortunately, I had to be. I was kicked out of my home, right when I was 19, by him and and then that's when my mentors took me in. And when it comes to the challenges, right that folks in different identities face or communities, so housing, it's one, right, housing stability. And so right now, where I live, it's probably the been the most consistent housing I've ever had ever after my arrival here. And so learning through that, and then moving through, not having a work permit to work. And then, you know, when DACA right 2012 came about, and then those that get the access to qualify to apply. That was life changing to getting a work permit. And so once I got that going, I remember buying this saving to my I was working at Jack in the Box and Compton and say, I used to take my bike to West LA College, take the bus, but then I bought me this Green Toyota Corolla, for like $1,000. And that car never left me. And it was like, it was my ride or die for real. And I remember going to you know, West LA College.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 16:48

So many of us had Toyota Corollas, I'm just saying.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 16:53

It was the most beautiful car. I remember, you know, going to and that's why I always joke around saying like, the Los Angeles community district marathon, right. And because it was going to not one, not to like five, six different ones, because I was working full time to sustain myself. And so I think that a lot of things about higher ed is about this kind of traditional path, right? That you graduate high school. Then you go to four years, and then you go to masters, my journey didn't look like that. Right?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 17:24

And traditional students tambien and what do they look like? Exactly a specific age, a specific race, a specific gender a specific sexuality, and you name it, etc?

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 17:35

Yea. So I remember, you know, I went to CSUN after high school, and my dad helped me pay, I remember, it was 2500 dollars. And he helped me so that's why, you know, even though my relationship with my dad is very complex, I'm always gonna have a chance to call him and say, you know, I just wanna say, thank you. Our relationship is not the greatest. And yet, I can still recognize the things you did for me, so that I can be here, you know. And so, but I wasn't able to think about this, you know, in my younger years, but it's, so you know, so I started at CSUN. And then I had to leave because my dad was, you know, found out or has asked me that sounds funny.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 18:15

Was this before West LA College?

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 18:17

This was way before. So when I was in high school, we used to go to West LA Community College, because we did some sort of dual enrollment, where would take units so that when you would, you know, go to college, you already had some. So that's how I became familiar with what community college was. And so when I got kicked out, and my dad stopped, helping me pay me for me education, it wasn't that bad. This is fall 2010. And I remember I can go back to that place community college West LA, and then transfer. And that's when I first heard the worst transfer, right. And so long story short, I started. I worked for about six years, and I attended different community colleges until the time came to transfer, right. And so my mentors at the time said, why don't you try to UCs? And I'm like, girl, I have a 2.7 GPA. There's no way right.

But then there's like deficit thinking, I would think about different things right that were imposed most of the time. And I was supposed to go to Cal State LA, Dominguez Hills, which I had applied, interestingly. And so I ended up applying to UC Santa Barbara, Berkeley, UCLA. And when I was in high school, some students from UCLA came to do a presentation. So I had like, oh, my God, that's my dream school. So I actually ended up getting accepted into UC Santa Barbara. And at the time, the California Dream Act, which is the help for undocumented students for financial aid had to come out. And so interestingly, the power of mentorship networks, my community college counselor, had a sister they used to work in residential life. And she said, why didn't you tell me you were applying that you got in. And I said, I didn't know I was gonna get in. So the power community so she said, let me call my sister. Send her your resume, and we'll figure out a way to see how where we can get you a job. And so I ended up actually getting a job in residential life as a resident director to support a whole building of undergrads.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 20:11

I didn't know this part of your story. Wow.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 20:15

That paid for my room and board. So think about it, right. It was like, my god.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 20:19

That's huge, especially in Santa Barbara. Yeah.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 20:22

And so and then I'm also this non traditional student, right? So I'm 25. I'm transferring the like, who is this brown fat like, person coming over here, like, but I love the community that I built with the RAs. And that's how we were able to survive. You know, Santa Barbara was a very predominantly it's a predominately white school too, and so being able to build that community. And so long story short, I think what I wanted to get at was that when I got to UCSB was the first time that I saw queer and trans students be so unapologetic about who they were. And I'm like, wow, like this exists. And so I would have not been able to explore my identities, had it not been for those undocumented, queer trans students who were so unapologetic. And so, you know, I felt like I was on my old, like, why should I do any of this, but that's how I ended up really exploring more my identity. And so that's how we created a club for undocu queer undocu trans students, you know. Shout out to Diana Valdivia, who also helped us out tremendously at the time.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 21:31

She's been on the podcast. Second time, she's gonna come our before before yours, the folks will know who she is. That means you gotta come a second time, too.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 21:49

I'll save some for the next time. And so you know, as I'm sharing this with you, I'm reflecting in just thinking about, I would have never really gotten to explore. For example, remember, I was going to a conference called Presente the Presente conference. And it was the first time I really put like, my lipstick on, like, someone was like, teaching me how to do it, like the students. And these are younger students. Right. And so talking about disrupting that idea of like, who knows more than one right? Age. The first time I met Bamby Salcedo, I saw like, Latinx or Latine queer and trans folks. And I was like, wow, like, to me, it was just a new world. And so now I'm, you know, thinking about how to support students in many different ways. I obviously try not to generalize, right, my own experience. But I use that as a starting point, just saying, there, these are the different ways in which you can think beyond what we know, to support students who may have not just different identities, but experiences and they may be affected by different systems of oppression, but that exist in higher ed. Yes. And, you know, jokingly, I remember, like, pushing administrators when I was an undergrad. And as I become an administrator, myself, I also find myself being pushed. And so I think that's been.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 23:20

I want you to say a little bit more about that.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 23:24

It's, you know, I joke around like, oh, damn, I also became the devil, right? Oh, my gosh, how? Like, you know, you're here. But I think there's a level of privilege. And I think that I've been learning to become more strategic. And allow the students to know, and be transparent as much as they can, here are my limitations. Yeah, here's what you can do. And here's what we can do together. And so instead of hiding, and not, you know, I think that's often what happens that oftentimes, administrators or systems have been asked, we need this, why are you doing that. And I think sometimes they give a big fluffy answer to say, we're not there yet. And that's something that would appreciate more. It's for folks to say, you know, what, we don't know. And I rather they say no, we don't know. Or here's how I'm trying to figure it out. Then try to make people believe that there is work behind happening behind the scenes with maybe there isn't any work yet.

And so I know that's rough. But I think that in this work, I remember I used to say like, it's about life and death, like these are students lives. And so, as it is a big responsibility, I'm often reminded of like, what can I do? And sometimes, you know, we had a keynote speaker for a lavender grad student. Como se llama. Please forgive me. And he talked about like, my work is my activism. And I thought about how activism looks very different. Right and us you know, the work that I do now, making sure that the students continue to attend that we get them the resources, that maybe my activism, I don't have the time to be out, we have to redefine that.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 25:15

I love that you said that, because I always had a complicated relationship with owning my own sense of activism, because of my own identities as someone who was chronically ill, and struggling with internalized ableism. And struggling with my mental health and knowing that those certain settings, trigger my flare ups and trigger my mental health issues, when wanting so badly to do that work. But knowing it would come at a really big cost. And so then learning to redefine it, and to figure out the ways in which I can use my gifts and my strengths, and that service of activism and of others, and promoting social justice, that has been a big game changer for me in my life. And I'm glad that you're mentioning that that you can work within the system, you can work outside of the system, you just got to figure out the ways that work best for you. And I know that like now you have this role as a director. So you've, you know, worked your way up to this point of working for la Casita.

And I want to hear a little bit more about that. About the support, about the resources, and why you said this is a place that provides holistic support. I love that because I think we need to see and support folks as whole human beings, not just as students and academics. So what what kind of services, what kind of support like, how have you essentially, designed this space, or I know that this is all your labor of love. So I want to, I want to hear more about for folks who don't know about this process of developing this space and providing the services because I know you've done a lot. Yeah.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 27:03

Thank you. No, and I think one thing I want to say thank you to you. It's funny enough, from my classmates and undergrad at UCSB, I always heard a lot about you, right.

Yeah, I mean, there were there were some people who like you know, you know who you gotta meet. You gotta meet Yvette, you know like, and somehow I remember we became connected, you know? And once.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 27:26

I remember our cafecito I do remember.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 27:30

You know without knowing, right, like shout out to Malaphone Phommasa from the Transfer Student Center. Like just so many people who became very pivotal to, for me making it like I had my last weeks of undergrad really quickly, I was so scared because I think I had reached what I had longing for for so long, which was like, oh my gosh, am I really gonna graduate? Am I gonna fail that class? Is the assignment gonna prevent me it was like everything that you can think of came to me.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 28:02

A lot of us have that, that last year and the last quarter for me, I was like, I'm gonna fail everything, like, everything in the world that can go wrong is gonna go wrong. It's not gonna happen.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 28:12

Like, it's not gonna happen for me. Right. And I think one of the things that I appreciate that you mentioned was around like, chronic illness. And so I remember for me, as Santa Barbara was also communitycCenter was also a little bit challenging, where I feel like that's where I developed. I'm diabetic, right? So I have diabetes type two. And I appreciate you saying that, because it reminds me of making more visibility for chronic illnesses that maybe people be like, oh, because of your eating or because it's sometimes family history. And honestly, the way that I can think of it is also a systemic issue.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 28:50


Rony Castellanos Raymundo 28:51

And I remember being depressed and just not feeling good. And I think now that I think about what I wish or what I what I know now would have known then, to really like, hug myself and take care of myself more, and I have a grace for that right now. But I think about how these illnesses also affect us. Right? And so for example, and this is how I want to tie into La Casita. So, I was brought in as an emergency hire in fall 2020 So a group of students in Dominguez Hills created a proposal, right to push administration to say we're over 63% Latino students on campus, there isn't a resource center for us, why? So shout out to Jeanette Najera, who was a student and Dr. Conina Benavides Lopez chair of Chicano Studies right now at CSUDH, who really supported the students in finding a vision and really come up with a plan. They had a whole plan. And I was so wowed. And so I think for me, it was beautiful to be about almost an emergency hire and to honor the work of Jeanette as a queer transfer student, non traditional.

And so I think if something that I can say want to throw the record is thinking about sometimes or oftentimes, a lot of the change in the in the world or that are in the communities have been so comes from like Black, Brown, queer trans communities. And I think that's not really said a lot like. So I think about like Jeanette and the way that she was able to run the center. And when I came in, we're in the middle of COVID. But we started to build community online. And I know that you were one of our guests, as well right to support our students and their visions about graduate school, or if they were not thinking about graduate school, thinking about all the ways in which they can move right during that time. And so La Casita one of the things that even our symbol of colibri, right, thinking about centering healing and wellness for our students at the core, because most of the time we're running around, trying to achieve the degree, but that gap between this is what I'm starting and when I get there. There's a lot that happens, right? So for me, I'm always interested in the process rather than like, okay, we can get to the goal for sure, by any means necessary. But what's happening in the in the in between.

And so for me was really essential to tie in and wellness well being, that the center is an anti racist center, or centering, right, like things like critical race theory to really analyze the ways in which students are navigating that. But you know, I can't go out and say like, you know, there's racism and student movements. And so there's very, very different dynamic ways in which we invite our students to learn about more. And also disrupting that English is a dominant language, right? And culture of, of white America, and thinking about, even the more that we advertise things in Spanish, or the Spanglish, or the pocha pochaness, right? Yeah. And making space because oftentimes be like, whoa, I don't know how to speak Spanish, and I'm not Latino enough. And so I often think of Alan Pelaez Lopez, who, you know, challenging the meaning of Latinidad, and really knowing that Latinidad has excluded Black folk, trans folks, yeah. And bueno.

To sum it up, I think about what are the holistic services, right? And so what are some of the things that we're trying to do different is from the moment, as soon as walking in our center, doing our best that the physical space of the center is representative of not just one culture, right of decentralize Mexicaness, right? To allow that there is other cultures other ways to see Latinidad. Challenge it, build it, throw it in a blender, as Lady Gaga will say, put it out, do the things, but in a way that they can come in the space, whether they can do homework, they can take off their backpack, can sit on the couch, watch a movie, listen to some music, rest, attend a workshop, things that, you know, provide snacks to support food insecurity to our students. And so I think that it's been beautiful to see the space still transform, right. And we're still building and advocating, to make sure that in the center, we have, for example, not just like graduate school workshops for we're talking about mental health, we're talking about anti blackness and all the different things, but in ways that are going to be digestible, yet pushes students to think beyond.

I mean, I think more than anything, I wouldn't be able to do anything without my student team. And so my colleagues who really are critical and see the needs of our students. And so hopefully, like I said, that also challenges that idea of home. Home is not a safe space for everyone. But if in this campus or in this right, this campus can be a moment to redefine what that can mean for somebody, maybe in this space, my home is different for me. So if anything, that's what we're trying to achieve, you know, and so we still have a lot to go since we're very brand new. But I'm excited to and to go back to the chronic illness, I think that this work has been the work that has really saved me. I think especially during the pandemic, being queer living by myself, like when I had COVID, I was literally my dad came to drop off water friends, and I will see him through the window, you know, like when he was at the height of the pandemic. And the isolation for queer and trans people is real, right? And so there was an impact to that. But like, I can truly say that the work at La Casita has been so restorative and it fills me up with motivation and purpose.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 34:48

You can feel it, you can sense it. There's that that energy when I hear you, when I see you, even following y'all on social media, I just get this sense of care, and nurturing, and of comforts and home, and I love that. I really, really love that. And I'm glad that you shared this aloud because this is one example of the potential for many other spaces that can shape and develop and create other places that are like this, or that are representative of other populations that need that same kind of care and nurturing, and safe space or like a home away from home. Or like you said, for some, some of us went to college, because we're trying to run away from our homes, myself included. So I laugh when I'm sometimes when I am thinking about something that's uncomfortable. But thank you for calling attention to that. And for doing the best that you can to create this type of space for a lot of students that need it while at the same time serving as a role model to others, to work on yourself to work on your own healing. I know that's not easy. So I just want to, like commend you for that. And for continuing to do that, that work, the self work is not just you're not just working just for a system, you're not just working just for the community, because a lot of folks do a lot of really amazing community work at the expense of themselves.

And so you're doing the work of like that, that cycling between all the different commitments and on and also your commitment to yourself and your, your self worth and your self love. So I think I want to ask you for for advice for folks who are, you know, finding themselves in the situation that you were at when you were going to college? And when you said like, oh, if I could go back and tell myself something I would like, hug myself where I would care for myself, I would embrace myself in this way. So for folks who are who are at that moment in their time, when they're still trying to find themselves, they're still trying to fully embrace themselves and all of who they are. And don't 100% feel represented in the spaces that they're part of, what kind of advice would you provide for them?

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 37:27

Yea, no, thank you again, for that question. I had, so it's so it's everything's connected. It's so weird.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 37:36

It's all interconnected everything.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 37:39

This week. And we know I was telling you, I was part of this panel, right? So we were three professional sharing about how they came to the US and how they made it and the tips, right, the students. And so I think for me what something that was beautiful is that even back in 2015, 2010, there wasn't publicly, like being able to talk about, hey, I'm depressed, or I'm feeling the difference between them feeling anxious, or maybe confusing exhaustion for depression. Because, you know, in this country, it's this need to grind. And so I'm also deprogramming, right, shout up to nap ministry about how to shift that, and especially higher ed student affairs, I am so sorry. But as much as I wish I could work 40 hours, and just be like done. Sometimes we're pushed, right. And so that's been a challenge. So how do you know people talk about like, oh, let's work? How do you work life balance? And so I think for me, it's like, we have to shift slowly to say, I am going to put myself at the center of it, right?

So if I could say, if anything, at all is thinking about the hardest battle we'll ever fight, is the battle to be authentic. And authenticity changes. So my authentic self from five years ago, is very different than my authentic self from now. And so if I can give myself that adventure, and that kind of, you know, I'm not into roller coasters, but sure life has given me one. But to feel, like to feel the things in your stomach, to feel that things in our bodies, to envision ourselves, to imagine. I always say this, another future is possible and the future is now. And so thinking about when I'm depressed and when I'm feeling unmotivated, I think about alright, so what are things that can maybe not shift me quickly, like, oh be happy, but move through that feeling? I think it's been able to, you know, there's days, I'm not gonna lie this is I'm like, ah, I'm tired.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 39:53

Ah, yo, tambien.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 39:55

RIght. But and to name that like I'm exhausted and we have have to like, Oh, you're being negative. And it's more like, let me share out loud, like I'm feeling exhausted yet I want to heal yet I want to get myself grounded. And so I think being able to get to know us, like, I feel like we're owed that time. We're owed that like, artistic for example, like me, you always find me singing, yo. And even though I, you know, I may not be the greatest singer, but I think to myself, like music is really important to me. Culture is very important to me. But I don't think that I got to really know that hadn't really been questioning, or pushing myself, right. And so I think that if anything, the big piece is like getting to know who we are, and being okay, that that changes over time. Right. And so, there is no one way to look nonbinary. And I think that was one of the things that I wanted to share with you. Folks think about like, oh, you're trans, you have to look a certain way, or you have to dress a certain way. Or people like, for example, someone yesterday asked me, they were like, so where's your lipstick? And I'm like, okay.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 41:07

What, you expect me to wear lipstick now? I should have been like, Why didn't you shave or something? I don't know.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 41:21

And then think it's because of this obsession of like, okay, man or woman or people confuse gender for sex, right? Usually you have like, you're a female, you're male. And honestly, it's tiring right to have you have to tell people of that taxation of like, okay, here I have to explain, but I've learned to pick and choose my battles.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 41:41

My gosh, that's really I say that all the time to folks, no matter what their battles are, we all have our battles, right? You know, for me, it might be chronic illness, it might be neurodivergence. It might be you know, you name it. For you. It might be gender, it might be you know, being brown, whatever it is, like, we all have our battles, but you got to pick and choose them because we can't be in fight mode all the time.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 42:08

And that's the biggest, I feel like when I came out at UCSB, I was like this angry, queer. I was like, yes, you know, fight. And that time, I also took a thing on my health, right? And so yes, anger can be also used as a form of healing. And at the same time, we have to, you know, do some math. So I think about that. I'm like, I'm not picking you today. I'm gonna. I know. Yeah. And I know where I'm at. And so we're not there to engage at that level. Yeah. Right. And so I think that that's what will be one thing about, we are owed time, we are owed experience, and in a country that every day we wake up, there's something that says we don't want you here, anti this anti that. It's not to say I'm gonna ignore it. You know, in that guilt, survivor's guilt is still real. Yeah.

And we will talk about this in episode two pero when I moved from undocumented to dacamented to formally undocumented, it was as if like, oh, girl, you're no longer part of the community because tienes papeles right within, it's like, you have a green card now. And then that's a shock. And so I know there is folks. Angie Rivera in New York has been working on creating ways into which, like, people can come together and talk about formerly undocumented, like, when you return right now with folks who have Advanced Parole, right, so they get granted that opportunity to earn and it's just messes up with your mental health you know.

So anyways, for another for another episode of the podcast, but it's, it's something I think we need to if tomorrow everyone had access to legal status, what would happen then to those experiences? What would happen to well you're no longer undocumented, what does that mean? And so because even now that I have a green card, like there's things that I had to learn about what are the limitations are having a green card? Like I can't stay out of the country for like, longer because I might not be you know, let in? Yeah. And I didn't know that right. And so or even applying to citizenship and I'm like I might become a citizen of this country. What, like, what does that, it's a whole, you know, proceso but anyways, let me let me let me stop there. But for another, another session, we'll see.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 44:41

Yeah, navigating the complexities of identity and experiences and, and sistems and how we navigate these systems and how. Yeah, yeah, it's it's at the I definitely think that's a whole other episode because I'm like, I could go on and on about like, identity shifts, and changes in relationships and how you when your relationships change, then like who, you know, when you change, your relationships, changing your relationships changes you, like a lot. And then there's a whole grieving process to was you navigate all of these huge life changes. So we're getting close to wrapping up, I wanted to ask if you have any other closing words? And if not, I would like for you to share how others can reach you for folks who want to hear more from you who want to connect.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 45:35

Yeah, you know, it's interesting. So I've always been curious about how to start an LLC. Because I want to, I've seen folks do some of that, that work with this, like consulting and workshops and different things. So right now I'm in the process of imagining what that will look like for me. I know there is like a collective of Central American poets, artists and things like that. So I would love to bring more, not just visibility, but connect with those folks.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 46:06

I have to put you in touch with my tio. My tio is the one who helped Bamby Salcedo start their nonprofit so just talk more about this after the recording.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 46:21

Si, pero folks in connect with me on LinkedIn right right now are also following me on social media at Rony Eduardo and then via email, so ronycaste@gmail.com. So Rony punto Caste at gmail, and, you know, just connect with me happy to support and share the knowledge. And stay tuned for more upcoming things. And just, you know, putting myself out there because I feel like that was another thing. I was afraid to really step in into the fullness of me. And I think the I'm stepping,

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 47:06

Yeah, I'm so happy. You're wearing a yes shirt. But I'm like, I don't want to be pushy at like, you know, folks are ready, you know, when they're ready, they'll come. And I'm so glad that you that you arrived at this point where you're feeling more comfortable and being, you know, more public and more out and more visible, because we need to see and hear and learn from more folks like you.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 47:32

Yes, no. And thank you. I mean, I feel like this is one of the ways right, so write it and honor, and how through your platform, you're opening up opportunities. So I think that I love that. That's that community care, right? Like we're using our access to help others and I know you've have other folks on our podcast. So thank you and to others who have come on and share write their stories and identities.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 47:56

Well, thank you so much, Rony, we'll make sure to add your contact info in the show notes. And thank you again for coming for sharing so much for sharing your wisdom, your experience, your all the amazing things you've been doing. I wasn't kidding when I said you're one of my favorite people. You're so full of like, that's how I was like, when I think of Rony I think of nurturing like I think of like a big abrazo. I feel so much warmth from you. And I'm sure everybody else felt it too or feels it too as they listen to this episode so gracias, I appreciate you.

Rony Castellanos Raymundo 48:35

Of course, thank you to everyone y nos vemos pronto.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu 48:37


Did you ♥ this episode? Let me know.

Grad School Femtoring
Email List