Latinx Graduation Celebration
While the official university graduation ceremony does everything it can to give students a special moment, it can feel somewhat distant for some families. With so many wonderful students to award, it's important to recognize the accomplishments of every student, especially minority students. Established in 2019, the USU Latinx Graduation Celebration is an event where the university and Latinx Cultural Center celebrates the outsanding achievements of Latinx graduates and their families.
This celebration is meant to help bridge the gap by allowing students to celebrate their accomplishments. At the celebration, students come dressed in their graduation regalia and are called up one at a time in alphabetical order. They will be given a stole to be placed around their neck, and the center's Coordinator of Programs and Director will shake their hands. Students are then allowed a few minutes to address the audience and their families. After the event, the students are allowed to keep the stole, as a gift from the Latinx Cultural Center. The stole is meant to be worn at the university graduation ceremony and serve as a treasured reminder of our students' university achievements.
I am Dr. Christopher Gonzalez, Associate Professor of English and Director of the Latinx Cultural Center at Utah State University. I am supported in this event today by the Sr. Coordinator of Programs for the Latinx Cultural Center, Pam Allcott. I also wish to recognize our student workers and volunteers who helped make this event possible. Please stand and be recognized.
The Latinx Cultural Center has existed for just under one year. In that time, we have worked diligently and doggedly to create more opportunities to make the Latinx community more visible at the USU campus and in the Cache Valley. In this first year we have heard from students that they have often felt invisible and culturally erased at USU. We have heard stories that our students are often the only Latinx student in all of their classes, and sometimes, they are the only Latinx student in their entire major program. When you are used to hearing the sounds of the Spanish-speaking home, of smelling the aromas of a homecooked meal, of meeting with friends who share cultural traditions and idiosyncrasies, you are devastated when you realize these things are now absent in your daily university life. It exacerbates an already stressful college experience. The Latinx Cultural Center, with the full support and investment of USU President Noelle Cockett, exists to make a difference in these areas.
As far as we can tell, there has never been a celebration quite like this at USU—one that showcases Latinx heritage in the context of graduation as we do today. In fact, it was an inquiry from Ashley Hernández concerning a stole that provided the final push that we needed to do this for the 2019 graduation. We would like to thank her now.
All of this makes today historic, and yet, we regret that we are only beginning to do this in 2019. So while we recognize the weight of history, we also want to honor history by publicly acknowledging those Latinx graduates who came before and did not have the opportunity to be recognized in this way in their own time.
Please join me in honoring and congratulating all previous Latinx graduates of Utah State University with a round of applause.
While we have all congregated here in common purpose, this celebration truly has the graduating student and their families in mind. And, if truth be told, this event really has those parents and guardians in mind. You have supported these graduates as they worked hard to complete their degree, but most often from a distance. Unlike these graduates today, family members and close friends have often had to take in the college experience second hand. Only you know the challenges and perhaps frustrations you have experienced, when you could not help your son when he was stressed from exams, when you could not help your daughter when she worried about her final project. But your support was appreciated throughout. And today, the graduates will have an opportunity to tell you, in this public space, what you have meant to them during this journey.
Finally, to the graduating class of 2019 who belong to and are shaped by a Latinx cultural background, we would like to say that we are so very proud of you. Not only will you always be a part of Utah State University, you will forever be an integral part of the Latinx Cultural Center for as long as it exists. We invite you to remain a part of the center, no matter where your adventures and your career take you. You now become professional role models and potential mentors to the Latinx students currently at USU and those to come. Your achievements help to undo the harm of limiting stereotypes and prejudices many people hold. We have great faith in you, and look forward to hearing about your successes.
— Dr. Christopher González
Director, Latinx Cultural Center &
Associate Professor of English