Students found PiLAS, the College’s first Latinx/e pre-professional organization

Palvasha Khan

Students gather in Bascom House for the first PiLAS meeting. (Photo courtesy of Angel Santiago.)

PiLAS — the newly founded Latinx/e pre-professional organization — hosted its first meeting in collaboration with Vista, the College’s Latinx and Allies student organization, on March 9 in Bascom House. The meeting introduced the goals of the club and held a scavenger hunt for attendees to win career-related prizes such as neckties and a briefcase.

PiLAS serves to provide Latinx/e students with the resources necessary to enter fields such as law, consulting, medicine, and more. The name of the organization is derived from the idiom “ponte las pilas,” which means “work hard, get going” but directly translates to “put on your batteries.” In an email to the Record, co-founder Brandon Corrales ’24 wrote that the club hoped to foster education and mentorship about paths after the College, as well as community and empowerment. “PiLAS hopes to bridge [the knowledge] gap by becoming a resource to provide insight on skills like resume building, interview preparation, and professional opportunities,” he said.

The other founders, María Fernanda Estrada ’23, Pedro Rodriguez ’23, Clara Ramirez Trelles ’24, Angel Santiago ’25, Arlett Cabrera ’26, and Katherine Lopez ’26, added that the idea for PiLAS emerged from Latinx/e students’ need for more community based spaces on campus. Along with PiLAS, students have created other Latinx/e affinity groups, such as CAFÉ, an organization for Central American students; COMADRX, a space for Latinx/e women and non-binary students; and SUBE, a group for Latinx/e STEM+ students. “Latinidad is too often reduced and seen as a monolithic experience, so we hope that this movement makes space for a celebration and community building around some of the facets of the Latine identity,” Estrada wrote.

Before the creation of PiLAS, Cabrera discusses how many Latinx/e students relied on each other informally for career-related support and guidance. “Many Latinx upperclassmen have let me know of resources and opportunities around Williams and even abroad,” she wrote. “This sense of community has especially enabled me to become more outspoken and look for career opportunities for myself.”

In order to achieve their goals, the founders have outlined a two-fold approach. First, as Ramirez Trelles explained, PiLAS will hold general programming targeted at supporting students on a pre-professional track, including developing networking skills, preparing for an interview, and writing a resume.

The second approach involves forming industry-specific groups within PiLAS led by a student chair. “That would look like connecting students to alumni in their field of interest, helping them look for internships in their industries, and things that generally cater to a specific track,” she wrote.

However, when attempting to access College resources, many Latinx/e students felt confused.

“Many people, Latinx people included, have expressed that they feel unsure of the resources available to them or how to access them,” Lopez wrote in the email.

PiLAS is working with its faculty advisor, Associate Director and Director for Inclusive Career Exploration at the ’68 Center for Career Exploration Alexa Icenia, to improve Latinx/e student relations, communication, and advising within the Career Center.

Although PiLAS is a new student organization, its founders said they are committed to making a lasting impact on their community. “By imparting our learning to others, we aim to inspire and empower them to make meaningful contributions to the community,” Santiago wrote. “Our endeavors are grounded in the aspiration to promote growth and development for everyone here.”

Viki Fernandez ’26, a student who attended the first PiLAS meeting at Bascom House, expressed excitement about the event. “The turn out was really great and there was a lot of great energy in the room – it made it feel like there’s a really great community and network of support on this campus among us,” she wrote.

“It was especially exciting to see how many of us are pre-med. I feel like I don’t see that many of us in STEM classes, so it was really encouraging.”