After experiencing a rapid decline in members in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bilingual Education Student Organization (BESO) is looking for new ways to recruit members for fall 2021.
In a meeting March 12, members discussed ways to make BESO known, such as selling face masks on campus. Esther Garza, associate professor of bilingual education and BESO’s adviser, said maintaining a strong membership throughout the pandemic has been challenging.
Launched in 2012, BESO had as many as 60 members in its early days. The majority are first-generation/non-traditional students with interest in pursuing a career in bilingual education.
Before the pandemic, the organization had 40 members. Like other organizations, BESO was not prepared for the rapid decline of members and participation during the pandemic.
Today, BESO’s membership has dwindled to 15 students.
“We never realized how strong the COVID pandemic was going to come like a big wave and hit us,” Garza said. “We were not expecting just the drop in participation.”
Gisselle Lopez, bilingual generalist senior and president of BESO, said because of COVID, she’ll miss out on the experiences BESO had to offer before she graduates this fall.
Lopez heard about BESO from one of her high school teachers. She was interested in the field trips and other networking opportunities BESO had to offer. After she transferred from Northwest Vista college, Lopez joined BESO in spring 2020.
She became a club officer that same semester, but she didn’t expect to have such a rough start.
Veronica Delgado, bilingual generalist major and vice president of BESO, said that when the pandemic hit, all organization meetings stopped and organizations started to dwindle. Major events on campus were postponed until further notice, it was a concerning time for all organizations.
“It was an emergency situation to take charge and hold on,” Delgado said. “We tried to make it happen. We tried finding ways to make it happen and be alive again.”
It proved to be a struggle when the organization had to cancel their stole ceremony and banquet on May 14; a usually heartwarming and fulfilling event for graduating members and their families.
For their active participation in BESO, graduating members are awarded a graduation stole at the end of the school year. The stole is designed similarly to a sarape to embrace their Hispanic heritage and symbolize their achievement in pursuing a career in bilingual education.
Disappointed and upset by the sudden cancellation, the organization came up with a solution: a drive-through celebration on campus.
“We tried giving the students the best congratulations with a drive through ceremony with little gifts, a mug, candy, stuff like that,” Lopez said. “It was really last minute and a lot of people were emotional.”
During quarantine, participation decreased as members have been unable to commit more time while handling the pandemic with jobs, families and concerns outside of school. To make things more flexible, BESO hosts fewer meetings over Zoom.
That’s not the only solution BESO has planned. To continue spreading awareness of the importance of bilingual education and raising money for stoles, BESO plans to sell face masks along with their T-shirts in future fundraisers.
With recent news of Texas A&M University-San Antonio’s capacity increasing to 70% by the fall of 2021, Garza isn’t sure how smooth this transition will be. However, she said the organization still has high hopes and spirits for the future of BESO at A&M-San Antonio.
Garza said she hopes to see a steady growth in members and participation as well.
Lopez and Delgado are also excited to graduate this fall and prepare the next incoming officers to lead the organization after they leave. Lopez said to all bilingual education majors working hard for their teachers certification to remember,
“Just remember don’t give up, the sky’s the limit!”