Hispanics stand strong during national heritage month


Kicking off a new semester, USF celebrates diversity with National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.  University organizations gear up to highlight new advances in the community while exhibiting solidarity during current U.S. political affairs.

“Hispanic Heritage Month keep us united,” said Hadrian Cortes, Treasurer of the Latino fraternity, Lambda Upsilon Lambda. “It reminds us that we still play a big influence in other people’s lives.”

Cortes and his fraternity brothers stay active with the off-campus program Pasos Al Futuro to provide outreach to Hispanics in need. Their service involves helping immigrant families navigate the process of standardized testing, obtaining scholarships and applying for college. 

“It’s played a pretty big effect in our community,” Cortes said. “There’s like four or five sessions every semester, at least 100 kids every single one. It’s very influential to these kids. There’s literally some who don’t any English and it helps a of kids like that.”

According to the United States Census Bureau, Hispanics in the U.S. amount to 17.6 percent of the entire national population The demographic is the largest ethnic minority in the country, as of 2015.

“Every year we’re growing and growing,” said Hernan Benavides from the USF Latin American Student Association. “We are part of the economy, we are becoming more embedded with the culture here. Our culture is getting into the mainstream. The political climate is not so good toward immigrants, so I think it’s a way to make our voices heard.”

Leonor O’Relly, Chair of the Status of Latinos (SoL) Committee at USF, said current political turmoil is not a set-back to empowering individuals from the Hispanic community to persist with their success.

“You have to be aware and you have to be informed,” said Dr. Leonor O’Relly, Chair of the Status of Latinos (SoL) Committee at USF. “But I don’t let that personally affect the goals and what we set out to do. We have to continue regardless of what could be happening. The university shows the commitment to diversity, and our scholarship has continued to be effective.”

The Status of Latinos Committee is a presidential advisory committee that informs President Judy Genshaft of matters affecting the Latino community on-and-off campus. They take great pride in being another source of continuity for USF’s Hispanic heritage celebration, which according to O’Relly, began in the early 1990s with ‘Que Papa USF.’ 

During SoL’s annual Hispanic Heritage Award Luncheon individuals who help to advance the Hispanic culture and demographic will he highlighted. The Pathway Award will be presented to recognize faculty, students and community members and the SoL Scholarship will be conferred to a student who cannot qualify for financial aid because they are undocumented, or have parents who are undocumented.

“To me, that’s what it’s all about,” said O’Relly. “The significance of helping others to succeed and in life in general. It’s about the people, and advancing through the people who are making a difference. We have to improve whatever needs to be. It’s a celebration of moving forward.”