Latin Heritage Dinner Praises Leadership

Felipe Luciano focused on what it means to a Latino in the United States at the Latin Heritage Month Community Dinner and Awards Ceremony on Oct. 2.

Luciano, the keynote speaker and the founder and chairman of the Young Lords Party, stressed the importance of the Latino in the American community and denounced the criticism of common ethnic stereotypes, preaching instead a message of empowerment.

He spoke on the importance of educating today’s children for the benefit of tomorrow’s society.

“Latinos are the future of the United States,” he said. “We must change the way we think now, or else our children will fail in the future.”

Luciano was born and raised in New York City. He has been committed to community service and civil rights within the Latin community. Luciano has been an acclaimed journalist for many years.

“I thought he was a very good speaker because he actually expressed real emotion in his speech,” Kiran deep Kauh, a freshman medical technician major, said.

“His words were very inspiring. They made you re-think your everyday life,” Dennis Montoya, a graduate student from SUNY-Stony Brook said.

Guests gathered Friday night at Marillac Terrace to dine, listen and to recognize the honorees and their significant achievements within the Latin community.

“You don’t have to be Latino to have Latino pride,” Debbie Amaro, director of the Liberty Partnership Program, said.

One of the highlights of the night was an awards ceremony for student leaders. Lisa Algarin and Luis Montalvo received the awards because of their activism on campus last year and their efforts in reaching out to the Latino community including their involvement in O.L.A.S. and the Latin Heritage Month Committee.

“This award proves to me that hard work is appreciated,” Algarin, co-chair of the Cultural Committee and a recipient of the Outstanding Student Leader award, said.

“Even the smallest person can make a difference and work harder for the future of all of us,” Montalvo, an O.L.A.S.member and another recipient of the award, said.

They were selected by their peers through a nomination process involving voluntary forms. The completed nomination forms were evaluated by the Community Dinner sub-committee and award recipients were determined on the basis of the total number of nominations per nominee. Any form of positive interaction with Latino students in the University’s community served as criteria for nomination.

“This is the first year of the new criteria implementation, allowing not just Latinos, but non-Latinos to receive awards as well,” Amaro said.

Stanyell Bruce, chair of the Latin Heritage Month committee, considered the evening “a great success.” It was their largest turnout to date with an estimated 250 guests, as opposed to 150 from the previous year. “The awards ceremony was certainly important to highlight the achievements of the St. John’s Latin community.”

“Tonight jumped off this month’s festivities and let the community know more about our cultural heritage,” Amaro said.