Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month at Baylor

By Brittney Coulter

Students of all cultural backgrounds are invited to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month through a new series of events presented by the Multicultural Affairs Department.

Brownsville senior April Ortiz, the multicultural Greek council representative for Gamma Alpha Omega, organized the events.

She said she was inspired by her sorority’s Greek director, Astrid Beltran, who told her that Hispanic Heritage Month was not widely celebrated on campus.

“Over the summer I spoke to her, and I got with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as well, to kind of brainstorm ideas for something we could possibly do for Hispanic Heritage Month,” she said. “Then I got with Multicultural Affairs shortly after school started and let them know [all] of the ideas that we had come up with.”

Ortiz also collaborated with members of other student organizations including Kappa Delta Chi, Omega Delta Phi and the Hispanic Student Association in planning the events.

Kelley Kimple, the coordinator Multicultural Activities, said this is the first time student organizations have come together to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, which officially began Sept. 15 and continues through Oct. 15.

“Some organizations have done different events throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, but this is the first time that they are kind of trying to collaborate with one another to bring all of their audiences together,” Kimple said.

The first event was the Hispanic Civil Rights Forum, which was held on Wednesday.

Attendees discussed current issues that pertain to the Hispanic community but affect everyone.

The next event will be a service project on Monday. Three more are planned for the rest of the month. The service project will benefit a local organization that teaches English.

Students will collaborate with LEAF founder Dr. Randy Wood, professor and director for the Center for Christian Education and associate director for the Center for Literacy.

LEAF stands for “Learning English Among Friends.” It is a service organization in which students help local Spanish-speaking families learn English at area schools.

“It hit me very strongly that there were a lot of kids and parents in our schools who didn’t read, write, or speak English,” Wood said.

“We just felt like God was telling us that there’s some people out there that we’re not serving,” he continued

Students will travel to Waco High School Monday for the first service event, to converse with small groups of LEAF participants. Only English will be used at the sessions, so the ability to speak Spanish fluently is not necessary for volunteers. Dinner will be served for the participants.

Wood said students who decide to volunteer with LEAF throughout the month will have a very enriching experience.

“I think for many Baylor students it’s going to be an eye-opening experience,” he said.

Wood also said he thinks students are “going to see a culture that perhaps they’re unfamiliar with, but is rich in history and tradition. They’re just the most wonderful people I’ve met.”

Other events throughout the month include a game night, a “Grab the Mic” performance in collaboration with the Association of Black Students and a comedy performance.

All the events were designed to be educational as well as entertaining.

“With any of the events that any of our students within multicultural organizations put on, it’s always going to be about expressing who they are as a culture and as a people,” Kimple said. “It’s all about educating people and hoping they enjoy themselves while being educated.”

Ortiz hopes the events will unite students from all walks of life to celebrate Hispanic culture.

“[We’re] just trying to bring the Hispanic community together and make the rest of the community aware of some of the things that we bring,” she said.

Students of all cultural backgrounds are encouraged to attend the events as well as other events sponsored by multicultural organizations.

“You’re in a learning environment,” Kimple said. “Take an opportunity if you aren’t part of that ethnicity or race to come out and learn something about somebody that’s different from you.”

Students who want to participate in the first LEAF service event on Monday should R.S.V.P. by calling (254) 710-2410 to receive information.