Hispanic Heritage Month Connects Communities at YSU

By Lauren Foote

Youngstown State University is celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month with several events and activities planned around campus and the community.

National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 each year, celebrating the contributions Hispanic and Latino Americans have made to the United States.

YSU has participated in National Hispanic Heritage Month for several years. This year the theme is “Celebrating and Connecting Communities.”

The Hispanic Heritage Planning Committee coordinates the celebrations and events at YSU through the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

Ana Torres, interim library coordinator at YSU, is a member of the planning committee.

“This is a celebration that brings all Hispanics together beyond just being able to all speak Spanish together,” Torres said.

Various events will celebrate Hispanic food, music and family. Well-known speakers like Soledad O’Brien will focus on specific majors and interests.

The opening ceremony will take place on Thursday in the rotunda at the Mahoning County Courthouse with a showing of the flags representing 22 Hispanic countries. President Tressel will be in attendance and Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez, professor in the department of philosophy and religious studies, will deliver the keynote address.

Alicia Prieto Langarica, assistant professor in the department of mathematics and statistics, has been chair of the Hispanic Heritage Planning Committee for three years. She implemented a colloquium series to bring together notable Hispanic scientists and mathematicians.

“The number of Hispanics and Latinos that actually hold Ph.D.’s in mathematics is quite small,” Prieto Langarica said. “So, I wanted to bring them to the YSU campus to be noted.”

Imelda M. Florez-Vazquez, a program specialist at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, will present a lecture entitled “Shaping Public Policy Using Math,” and Luis Nunez-Betancourt, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Virginia, will deliver a talk called “An Interplay Between Abstract and Applied Math.”

As of 2015, YSU has students and faculty on campus from Puerto Rico, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, Honduras, Cuba and Colombia. The Youngstown community has a relatively small, primarily Puerto Rican, Hispanic population.

Torres said the committee wants to involve students in planning the events and expose them to Hispanic culture.

“We want to have as many students in the committee as we can because they are the future leaders that will bring awareness to the community,” Torres said. “We want [them] to become involved with the main purpose of these events, which is to introduce the culture and tradition that is part of Hispanic life.”

Having participated in National Hispanic Heritage Month events nationwide, Bruno Serrano of the YSU Latino Student Organization and Rookery Radio’s Radio en Espanol holds up the celebration as a valuable cultural exchange.

“I … think it is important to educate the community not only about our culture, but also our contribution and goals as residents and citizens of this country,” Serrano said.