Hispanic heritage cha-chas its way around BU

Hispanic Heritage Month graphic FTWBy Paula Ann Solis
Staff Writer

Three weeks of Latin dances, community service and opportunities for cash prizes remain as a part of the Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations on campus.

For the past three years, Baylor’s Hispanic Heritage Committee has coordinated 30 days of activities for students to embrace the culture and contributions of Hispanics.

This year’s celebration began on Sept. 15 and ends Oct. 15.

Katy senior April Ortiz, the committee chair for the past three years, said an added incentive for students to participate this year is the chance to receive a $500 scholarship.

“We offer this scholarship to anyone who attends any one of our events,” Ortiz said. “We have sign-up sheets at every event and every time we see that you attend, you receive points. Those points, in addition to an essay and letter of recommendation you submit, go toward your consideration for the scholarship.”

The scholarship winner is selected by a panel of Baylor faculty and staff appointed by Kelly Kimple, the associate director of multicultural affairs.

Point-earning events that have already taken place include “lotería night,” a Spanish style bingo game, and the first Latin dance night.

Latin dance night is a weekly event hosted by the Latin Dance Society at 9 p.m. Mondays in Russell Gym.

Katy senior Melanie Medina, the society’s president, said joining forces with the Hispanic Heritage Committee is something the group enjoys doing because the goals of the Hispanic Heritage Committee are in line with the goals of the Latin Dance Society.

“We invite people to join us every week to have a good time and to learn something new each week about the Latin culture,” Medina said. “It isn’t just for Hispanics, but it’s for people of any dance-skill level and for people from any cultural background.”

Five events remain on the Hispanic Heritage Month roster and all are free to attend and open to the public.

Ortiz said it is not too late to join in on the festivities and become a scholarship candidate.

People can get involved during “salir a servir,” which means to go out and serve. Participants will meet at 10:15 a.m. Saturday in the Bill Daniel Student Center.

Ortiz said that out of all the events during Hispanic Heritage Month, this is the one that means the most to her and she hopes it has the greatest turnout.

“It’s sort of like a mini-Steppin’ Out,” Ortiz said. “We’ll be going out into the community doing different things from working at the Caritas on Bellmead Drive to helping set up decorations for a quinceañera at Avance.”

Other events include a forum on Oct. 3, in which a Hispanic speaker, who has yet to be named, will discuss life after college. On Oct. 15, the committee will host a talent show competition at Common Grounds where, once again, participants will have an opportunity to win big with a $100 prize.

Lufkin junior Saul Santoyo, a Hispanic Student Association member, said heritage committee events are an opportunity to do more than earn money. They are a chance to meet new faces from different backgrounds, and feel less lonely on campus.

“When you’re first on campus, it feels like it isn’t that diverse,” Santoyo said. “But when you go to an event like one of these, where so many different people come together, you realize how diverse this campus really is.”

This year’s heritage month is the biggest one in the three years since the committee began celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month on campus.

Eight Baylor student organizations joined the Hispanic Heritage Month Committee this year, as opposed to four during the first year.

Ortiz said student involvement is growing parallel to the diversity on campus and these events are an opportunity to celebrate Hispanic growth on campus and diversity as a whole.

“We, the committee, just hope that all races at Baylor feel welcome to attend the events regardless if they are Hispanic, Latino or Latina,” Ortiz said. “These events are not only for us to celebrate and take pride in our culture. We would love to share our culture with others and enjoy the events with the rest of the student body.”

For more information about the Hispanic Heritage Committee’s upcoming events or for information about the scholarship opportunity, contact April Ortiz at april_ortiz@baylor.edu.