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Montgomery College Excalibur

The Student News Site of Montgomery College

Montgomery College Excalibur

The Student News Site of Montgomery College

Montgomery College Excalibur

Hispanic Heritage Month Kickoff at Montgomery College

Raul Marin, a Community Engagement Specialist of Montgomery College’s Office of Community Engagement, poses with a handheld sign saying “Let’s Get Loco” during the meet and greet portion of the Hispanic Heritage Month Kickoff event. (Photo credit, Simret Aleligne)

On September 14, 2023, Hispanic Heritage Month was marked by the Kickoff event hosted in the Cultural Arts Center Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus (TP/SS) of Montgomery College (MC). The event was organized with the cooperation of all three MC campuses and hosted the college community, including but not limited to students, families, and faculty.

During Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM), which runs from September 15 to October 15 annually, communities come together to celebrate the cultural richness and commemorate the historical influence of Hispanic and Latino Americans. This month-long celebration features a wide array of events, including festivals, educational programs, art exhibitions, and culinary showcases, all aimed at fostering a higher understanding and appreciation of Hispanic heritage.

 

 

The Joe Falero Band entertains the Hispanic Heritage Month Kickoff event guests during a break between the speeches on September 14, 2023. (Photo credit, Simret Aleligne)

 

 

 

The Kickoff event, whose theme was ‘Latinos Driving Prosperity,’ brought together people of diverse backgrounds and races to celebrate the influence and impact of Hispanic culture in the United States. Guests were entertained by the Joe Falero music band, encouraged to try food from Hispanic countries and connect with each other in the start of a series of events spread over the month.

“HHM is about encompassing our culture, our backgrounds, and our ethnicities,” said Kimberly Jones, Director of Student Life at the TP/SS Campus. “We are such a proud community. We have a growing population of Hispanic and Latino students and supporting them is our priority now.”

Jones highlighted the importance of institutional and county-wide support to address the increasing Hispanic student population in MC and public schools across Montgomery County. She stressed the need for focused approaches to education and community engagement that honor Hispanic heritage. Jones encouraged proactive measures to ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment that nurtures the diverse needs of Hispanic students.

TP/SS Vice President and Provost, Brad Stewart, commented on the cooperation needed from all the MC campuses to successfully organize the Kickoff and the difference it had compared to events of the previous years.

Brad Stewart, Takoma Park/Silver Spring Vice President and Provost, being interviewed during the meet and greet section of the Kickoff event on September 14, 2023. (Photo credit, Simret Aleligne)

“In the past, each campus held its own event, and sometimes they were right on top of each other,” said Stewart. “The audience was small at each event but there are 100-plus people present tonight. It’s important that everybody at the college works together.”

Community Engagement Manager and member of the Organizing Board of Hispanic Heritage Month, Yanira Rodriguez, commented on the unique aspect of the Kickoff event, which focused on celebration and community rather than distinguished speakers. Rodgriguez remarked on the difference of atmosphere at the Kickoff— aided by the spread of food provided and the ambiance created by the presence of music— compared to previous events.

On September 14, 2023, Yanira Rodriguez, Community Engagement Manager, and organizer of the Hispanic Heritage Month Kickoff event, discusses the importance of this event. (Photo credit, Simret Aleligne)

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I think in the past, we were focused on speakers to elevate the event. At this event tonight, we have student involvement, while participants will have the main speaker and the music. When people hear music, they enjoy it with one heart and one soul.”

Rodriguez emphasized that the event was a celebration of Hispanic culture, and the contributions Hispanic people have made economically, and culturally, to further the prosperity and strengthen the future of the United States.

A repeating message communicated the need for representation throughout the event. Multiple speakers echoed the sentiment that they lacked a lookalike in different education scenes, from high school to post-graduate.

Dr. Glenda Hernandez-Tittle, Program Director of Alternative Certification for Effective Teachers and Yanira Rodriguez, Community Engagement Manager, giving their speech on September 14, 2023 at the Hispanic Heritage Month Kickoff Event. (Photo credit, Simret Aleligne)

Vilma Ortiz, President of the Latino Students Union, and Secretary of the Student Government Association of MC, spoke about the lack of a support system when entering higher education and how, as a female Latina, the process of applying to college and switching her major to business was a daunting task. However, she found a community that empowered her to achieve her educational goals and she named MC as her “beacon of hope.” Ortiz mentioned how she is now working towards the goal of offering that beacon to incoming and present Hispanic students at MC.

The committee also called attention to an event planned on October 14, at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus, where MC is partnering up with Montgomery County public schools to co-host a conference for 400-500 Latino students. Although the event is not open to the public, it aims to empower students and show them lookalike leaders they can aspire to be in the future.

 

 

During the beginning of the Hispanic Heritage Month Kickoff, the Sol y Rumba band entertains the guests. (Photo credit, Simret Aleligne)

 

 

 

The MC Kickoff event ended with the Joe Falero band encouraging the audience to dance, particularly to salsa and the song “Bailando.” Attendees, including professors and students of various ethnic backgrounds, danced together, showcasing the unifying power of music and dance. The event emphasized the significance of celebrating and embracing Hispanic culture within the diverse MC community.

The organizing committee of the Kickoff event called on the MC community to attend upcoming events to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, descriptions and schedules of which can be found on the Montgomery College website.

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About the Contributors
Nardos Hailemariam, Staff Writer
 Nardos Hailemariam joined the Excalibur as a staff writer in the Fall of 2023.
Simret Aleligne, Photo Editor
Simret Aleligne joined The Excalibur as a photographer in the fall of 2023.

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