(CBS DETROIT)– Wayne State may be best known for their great Medical and Business schools, but tucked away on the 3rd floor of the administration building is a program that’s changing minds and lives, and has been doing so for decades.

“Very few people know in Detroit, what the Latino community is very aware of is that this center is a legacy of the Civil Rights movement and was established in 1971-72 first as a one-year training program for Latino students,” said Jose Cuello, Associate Professor Emeritus of History and Latino Studies at Wayne State University.

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Cuello says, the students at the time demanded more than just a training program at the University.

“That turned into what was called the Chicano-Boricua Studies, that means Chicano is the Mexican-American part and the Boricua is the Puerto Rican those were the two strongest populations at the time,” said Cuello.

From there Cuello says the center for Latin American studies was born. A program that teaches a diverse group of students not only about their history but identity.

“My own personal ideal is that, you cannot just be a Latino, when people ask me who I am I don’t say well I’m a Latino, I’m Mexican, my first identity is human,” Cuello said.

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Cuello says the Latino curriculum here, isn’t exclusive to the classroom, the department has several outreach programs.

“People want to know, what is the day of the dead, what is Hispanic Month, is May 5th really a Mexican Independence Day or was it a fight against the French, so they come to us for that,” said Cuello.

On October 1, 2021 the center celebrated its 50th anniversary with a virtual program. Cuello also retired from teaching this year, and says what he’s most proud of with the center is how they encourage students to live up to their fullest potential, no matter where they come from.

“You’re gonna have people who are brilliant, but if you have discrimination and you don’t allow them to be brilliant, they cannot contribute to the entire society,” said Cuello

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