WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.
Sophomore Elizabeth Gutierrez sometimes felt out of place at Purdue University. That was before she became active in its Latino Cultural Center and the school hired its first Hispanic president, France Cordova.
“It helps us look forward to the future and know that we can make it,” says Gutierrez, a Mexican American and the first person in her family to attend college.
Gutierrez and a few hundred other students attended the Latino center’s open house Friday, where Cordova met with students and encouraged them to continue embracing their diversity.
The open house allowed the center and about 15 other Latino-based organizations to show students what they offer.
The event also served as a prelude for National Hispanic Heritage Month, which began Saturday. A number of conferences and other activities celebrating cultural diversity are planned for the coming weeks.
“I think it’s really wonderful that our students decided (the Latino center) is part of being successful,” Cordova says. “This is their creation, and I congratulate them for it.”
She says she felt it was important for her to visit the center.
“A lot of the students look at me as a role model,” Cordova says. “I think role models are important.”
Latino center Director Maricela Alvarado says attendance at the center rises every year. She hopes Cordova’s presence at Purdue will further the trend.
“It was wonderful to have her here finally,” Alvarado says. “I think it’s (beneficial) for us in terms of being able to recruit with a role model in that position.”
Students mingled outside the Latino center during the open house, talking with friends and eating churros handed out by the center.
Some of those present says they noticed a difference between this year and previous ones now that Cordova is on campus.
“It feels like we’re finally adding more diversity,” says junior Christina Giles, “not only with out students, but also (in the administration).”
Junior Alejandra Roman says she become active at the Latino Cultural Center because she wanted to relate to more people on campus.
“I’ve seen a lot of nice people today,” she says. “I just hope they come continuously … not just today.”
– Associated Press
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