Team SOL’s ECN care packages embrace Latinx culture and identities

March 2, 2023 — As a Texas native who grew up immersed in Tejano heritage, Roselle Tenorio ’17 experienced a fair amount of culture shock their first couple of years in Grinnell. 

Roselle Tenorio ’17
   Roselle Tenorio ’17

That’s why the College’s Student Organization of Latinxs became a substantial connection point for Tenorio. Better known by the acronym SOL, the organization serves as a cultural and social network for Latinx students across Grinnell’s campus.

“SOL helped me stay connected to my food, culture, and music,” Tenorio says. “I really enjoyed picnics or barbecues behind the Spanish house. We would play music, kick around a soccer ball, and be in the community with one another.”

As the organizer for Team SOL, Tenorio collected donations and then assembled and shipped 35 care packages to Grinnell this month as part of the Everyday Class Notes (ECN) care package project.

Now in its ninth year, alumni shipped a total of 1,302 care packages to campus in February. The packages were distributed to students Tuesday and Wednesday in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center (JRC). Each student could select any care package they wanted, which were displayed on several long tables. Alumni volunteers added new packages to refresh the offerings throughout the two days. On the first day alone, 996 students came in to select a care package. 

The idea for care packages started with a 2014 Facebook discussion in the alum group Everyday Class Notes, or ECN for short. Alums were reminiscing about the old Carnegie Hall mailroom where some of them received notes or small gifts from prior mailbox owners then paid it forward by sending something to the new mailbox owner after they graduated.

A team approach has caught on in recent years in which a group of alums contribute care package items or donate money toward items that encompass a central theme.

Members of the Grinnell College’s Student Organization of Latinxs (SOL) display care packages.
Members of the Grinnell College’s Student Organization of Latinxs (SOL) display care packages they received from Team SOL. 

Tenorio was aware some alums make packages for international students, so that they can have things that remind them of home as well as items that are difficult to find in Iowa. They started Team SOL last year with a similar mindset. They assembled 15 packages in 2022 that had either a Latinx, Black, or Native American focus.

When members of the Grinnell LatinX Alumni Facebook Group found out about Team SOL, they coordinated with Tenorio to make donations to this year’s effort. Even though this meant extra work on Tenorio’s end, it was well worth it.

“I really appreciate the extra number of supporters and the very generous donations,” they say. “If people are on board for the idea, it was worth me taking the time to do it. I really do enjoy shopping and putting the baskets together. I don’t buy stuff often for myself. To shop for others is a way I can enjoy the experience. And buying it for SOL students is a great motivator.”

Tenorio purchased items from local Black, Latinx, and indigenous businesses and groups in Chicago. They moved from Dallas to Chicago in 2022 and work as the program manager at Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Students contemplate what ECN care package to select.
Students contemplate what ECN care package to select Feb. 22 from tables inside the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center.

For example, one of the care packages including a collaborative coloring book by a Latinx group Yollocalli, pencils from a Black-owned convenience store on the southside of Chicago, Mexican candy and snacks, and a Puerto Rican bracelet. “I went to a botanica owned by one of my former classmates’ grandma,” Tenorio says. “She sells bracelets that are supposed to protect you and bring you good luck.”

While Tenorio didn’t include their contact information on last year’s packages, students still reached out to thank them.

One letter read, “I chose your bag because ‘your doing great, mijita,’ is exactly what I needed to hear. This week has been incredibly stressful so far but receiving the package with the Jumex and concha made me feel at home and full of happiness! I sent a picture to my parents, and it’s safe to say you made us all cry tears of joy!”

Tenorio said letters like that was a reason they were motivated to continue to assemble packages this year.

“It was definitely emotional receiving a thank you like that,” they say.

— by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

Alumni interested in sending care packages next year can join the Facebook group dedicated to the project. The Facebook site also has numerous photos and discussions about this year’s packages.

To read more alumni news, check out our news archive and like the Alumni & Friends Facebook page.