Student leader honored

By Batul Cutlerywala

DeKALB — An undergraduate student will be recognized as the 2018 Illinois Latino Council on Higher Education, or ILACHE, Emerging Leader Award recipient Friday.

Laura Vivaldo Cholula, DREAM Action NIU co-president, will be presented with the award during the ILACHE Professional and Student Development Conference, which will be held at Illinois State University in Normal.

ILACHE is a statewide organization that focuses on the progress of leadership, higher education and strong development of the Latinx community. Its Emerging Leader Award recognizes a student that demonstrates leadership in educational settings and social organizations while encouraging progression of the Latinx community, according to the ILACHE webpage.

Sandy Lopez, assistant to the director for the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies and ILACHE board member, nominated Vivaldo Cholula for the Emerging Leader Award. She said Cholula advocates for herself and on behalf of others.

“Laura has come a long way as a student, as an activist and a person,” Lopez said.

Vivaldo Cholula said she first attended the ILACHE conference in 2015 after she received her associate degree and didn’t know she would go on to further her education at a four-year institution because of financial obstacles. She said as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient, she does not qualify to receive any financial aid or federal loans.

“When I attended that conference, I met other students in the same position as me,” Vivaldo Cholula said. “Actually, NIU students, that kind of pushed me to continue to keep moving forward.”

Vivaldo Cholula said she saved saved up $7,000 for her first semester at NIU in fall 2015 and will be graduating with her bachelor’s in political science in May.

“Now going to the conference for the third time and now I am actually graduating and receiving an award,” Vivaldo Cholula said. “It means a lot.”

Vivaldo Cholula said being a Latina woman of color impacted her negatively initially because of the lack of examples on campus.

“We weren’t supposed to speak loudly or be confrontational,” Vivaldo Cholula said. “We were kind of like passive leaders.”

Vivaldo Cholula said meeting a variety of minority women who were influential leaders has made an impact on her manner of leadership over the years.

“I think my style of leadership is one where I am not just leading, but I am helping other students find the leadership qualities that are inside of them and helping them become leaders themselves,” Vivaldo Cholula said.