Find It Fast

Stories of Stevenson: Erik Rodriguez Patiño

District Communications
article banner for Stories of Stevenson featuring student Erik Rodriguez Patino
LASO club members posing outside the school with their sidewalk chalk art

Above: Erik and other LASO members celebrating Latino Heritage Month with chalk art.

For junior Erik Rodriguez Patiño, Stevenson was "a breath of fresh air." Raised in the Buffalo Grove community, Erik hadn't encountered many Latino students growing up through elementary and middle school. 

That all changed when he got to Stevenson and joined the Latin American Student Organization. “I was able to connect with a bunch more Latino students through LASO. After my freshman year, I got an e-board position which was like a dream come true. I immediately fell in love with the club and I am so excited to be president next year.”

LASO has a special place in Erik's heart. The club is dedicated to fostering an environment where students can explore Latino culture. “We value ourselves in being a safe space for everyone, especially for Latino students here at Stevenson - since it is a small percentage. We’re here to step into the role of representation and encourage other Latino students to express their own cultural background and be proud of that.”

Beyond fostering cultural connections, LASO has enabled Erik to channel his passion for mental health into leadership roles within the club. “I’ve been able to introduce my ideas into the club and see it come to fruition. Being able to lead those kinds of meetings has helped me express my ideas which has been seen through the mental health meeting on underrepresented communities I held last year. It was a very proud moment for me to share and collaborate with my fellow LASO members about something that is really important to me.”

LASO club members together in a classroom for a social event

Above: LASO members during a “Chat N’ Dash” activity that enabled prompt-led conversations with other members.

Continuing his focus on mental health, Erik organized an activity for his club members. Through a simple yet powerful exercise, he encouraged his peers to acknowledge their stressors while also recognizing sources of positivity in their lives. "I had everyone take out a piece of paper and draw a few clouds," Erik explained, "and in the clouds write any stressors that have been impacting their lives recently like tests, studying, family and friends. On the rest of the paper I had them write things that help uplift them. The whole point was to see the sunlight through the clouds and to remind them that there is always something to look forward to, someone to connect with or something to do to take them out of that cloudy sky.”

While Erik has found a sense of community within the club, he is also self-aware of his cultural identity inside the classroom and the feelings that can come with that. “It’s pushed me to work harder. Unfortunately, it does kinda put me at higher expectations -  in general as a society - to do as well as my white peers - especially when I am in more rigorous classes like accelerated or AP where I don’t really see, sometimes at all, other Latino students. It definitely drives me to keep pursuing those kinds of interests even though it does feel isolating at times, I do manage to find that confidence in myself.”

However, Erik emphasizes that it is “not as isolating as it may seem” and that he is still able to connect with his classmates despite their cultural differences. “I connect with all my peers. I can intellectually collaborate with them even if we don’t connect culturally. We connect through our shared interests being in the same class, it’s a good way to push through that boundary or separation.”

This innate ability to connect with others isn't confined to the walls of Stevenson, it's a fundamental aspect of Erik's character. “I’ve always found it in my nature to be a humanitarian and had that special connection on an empathetic level with other people - complete strangers even.”

Erik’s passion for helping others translates to his goals post-high school. As he looks ahead to his final year at Stevenson, he's also gearing up for his journey to college pre-med as a first-generation student. Erik reflects on the feelings of isolation he has felt seeing “everyone kind of know what they are doing and even having their parents and grandparents go to college and not having to think or be concerned about the college process” but has expressed gratitude for the resources at Stevenson and his counselor Ms. Kellogg.

Above all, Erik expressed special appreciation to LASO sponsor and Assistant Director of Multilingual Learning Dr. Tamayo. “Dr. Tamayo has played a huge role in shaping my leadership style and I wouldn’t be where I am today without her. She has and always will be someone who I can turn to for advice whether it be LASO-related or not. I am so lucky to have a strong Latina role model to guide me through my high school career as I work on being a first-generation college-bound student and leading the LASO community.”

In reflecting on his journey so far, Erik imparts a piece of advice he’s learned, “You don’t have to be perfect to be great.” Erik reminds us to acknowledge our efforts and embrace the journey, even if it falls short of perfection. “Being okay with giving your best even if you aren't at your desired goal - knowing that you are putting in all your effort that you can and being okay with that is important.”


Stevenson teacher and student looking at artwork at a museum

Erik and Dr. Tamayo discussing a painting at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago.


LASO club members potting flowers during a collaborative event with the Horticulture Club

LASO members learning how to pot Marigold sprouts with Horticulture Club in celebration for Dia de los Muertos.


LASO club members participating in an art activity

LASO members participating in a “Paint your Identity” activity to artistically express their cultural heritage.


LASO club members preparing their Mexico booth for World's Fair

LASO members as they prepare their Mexico cultural showcase booth for Stevenson's World’s Fair 2023.