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The Unity Center goes beyond

Updated: 18 hours ago

Monarchs emerge from their chrysalis to enjoy free food and make new friends

By Milan Rafaelov

The Unity Picnic welcomed students and staff to the new school year with free food and supplies while providing a safe space for everyone to come out of their social cocoons.

On Wednesday, students formed a line and music blasted as organizers arranged the food distribution tent and picnic area. To receive a fresh meal and bag of supplies, students needed to show their I.D. and answer a few basic questions.

“The fact that they’re providing you with lunch is important. As a student, sometimes I can't afford it,” said Lynn Guzman, a fourth-year business administration major.

After receiving boxed meals and cold water, students filled the grassy field one by one. Roberto Gutierrez, the event's drum circle instructor, persuaded shy passersby to join in for a percussive jam session. One after the other he convinced students to play and soon Unity Square was filled with intrigued students waiting for a turn.

Roberto Gutierrez, center, invites students and staff to participate in a drum circle during the Unity Picnic held at Valley. (Milan Rafaelov | Valley Star)

“We are celebrating the one-year anniversary of coming back from the pandemic,” said head organizer and coordinator of the Rainbow Pride Center Natalie Guerrero. “A lot of the feedback that I’ve received from students was that they had a lack of friends and social connections.”

Monarchs all over campus came to see what all the noise was about and stayed to enjoy the atmosphere. Giant beach balls, music and conversation packed the field as students talked among friends and strangers.

“We're always on the go, getting to and from class, so this is a time to connect with each other after coming out of the pandemic and to enjoy hearing the drums led by Reberto and connecting to green spaces and Mother Earth. The Unity Center goes beyond and is like a warm hug to the entire campus embracing everyone. I'm hoping to highlight the green spaces on our campus and do this more often, for this to be a kick-off of something we do every year or every semester.” said Natalie Guerrero.

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