October 8, 2018

WCU Recognizes Latina/o Success and Contributions to American Culture During Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage ConferenceIn the middle of Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated annually September 15 through October 15, the University welcomed the Latino Professionals Luncheon of Chester County, which awarded their annual scholarships to six Latina undergraduate students: five from WCU and one from Immaculata University. Philadelphia Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez presented the keynote address at the lunch, held on campus September 28.

WCU’s scholarship winners are Montserrat Garcia and Sofia Soto-Aguilera, both from Kennett High School, and both enrolled in WCU’s Exploratory Studies program; Amairani Reyna from Oxford High School, studying psychology; Maria Torres also from Oxford High School studying pre-business/ accounting; and Mitzi Colin-Lopez from Coatesville High School is studying social work. All are first-year students, including the winner from Immaculata, Dayana Torres Nieto.

“It truly means a lot to me. … It gives me the opportunity to become a part of such an amazing organization with members who genuinely want to see all of the students succeed,” said Mitzi Colin-Lopez, who will apply the funds from the one-time annual scholarship toward her tuition for this fall and spring 2019. “I will continue to work hard to achieve my goals and to show what great work our community can do.”

Latino Professionals Luncheon of Chester County was established in 2001 by two Latina WCU administrators (who have since left WCU) and Kennett Square attorney Leonard J. Rivera. Its members number more than 530 professionals from a wide array of fields. The group welcomes business people regardless of ethnic background.

The Scholarship Luncheon concluded the 10th annual WCU Latina/o Communities Conference “Building Bridges,” which was established to share ideas for bringing Hispanic Heritage Month into the classroom for regional educators and WCU student teachers, recalls co-founder Linda Stevenson, WCU professor of political science. “The sessions offer a variety of ways to build cultural competency for participants of any background – Latino or otherwise,” she noted.

This year’s attendance of more than 1,000 participants over two days matched the past several years. Attendees included a majority of WCU students, faculty, staff, about 100 community members, approximately 80 high school students from Norristown, Oxford, and Harrisburg school districts, and 40 students from The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, reported Miguel Ceballos, co-coordinator of the conference and associate professor of anthropology and sociology.

“We have strengthened our links to the Latino community by working to bring high school students to the conference,” he said, citing the scholarship luncheon as another linkage. Presentations on contemporary issues affecting the Latino community in such areas as immigration, health, education, and politics keep the program relevant for the community. And since students in Ceballos’ research methods and statistics classes will compile and analyze data from the surveys attendees completed after each session, he’ll have information valuable for the planning of future conferences.

Another way WCU pays tribute to Hispanic Heritage Month is by hosting the free Global Hispanic Film Festival. Every Monday evening in October, a WCU faculty member hosts a discussion about and screening of a Spanish-language film (subtitled in English). All showings are free and open to the public.

West Chester is one of only 65 institutions nationwide to receive a grant this year through Pragda Spanish Film Club, a film distributor that promotes Spanish and Latin American cinema in regions where access to these films is limited. The festival is put on in collaboration with the Department of Languages and Cultures and University Forum and made possible with the support of Pragda, The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports of Spain, and SPAIN Arts and Culture.