September is Hispanic Heritage month, providing a time for students to recognize their fellow Latino figures on campus and the role they play in providing a diverse and welcoming campus.
Ladies of Distinction coordinator
Yvonne Rodallegas, sophomore undecided student, has already become influential in the Latin American community on campus. She is involved in the Latino Student Alliance, works at the Latino Resource Center and is a co-founder of the Ladies of Distinction, an organization which aims to enhance cultural awareness and empower women of the Latino community on campus.
As well as promoting community service, one of Rodallegas favorite projects is teaching Spanish-speaking parents English.
“I had to do it all the time with my parents,” Rodallegas said. “It was my way of putting in an effort to help my parents understand.”
English is Rodallegas’ second language, and she said translating her parents made her feel a greater sense of purpose.
Rodallegas said her home and family life are important to her because they are her escape from the hectic life she leads on campus.
She aims to be involved with her Latin community on campus because she has always been very active in her culture, through being involved at home, as well as with service projects on campus.
Rodallegas said in 10 years she hopes to still be helping the NIU community by possibly opening a youth center for Latino children. Rodallegas said she wants to be able to give children a place to learn English and have a comfortable environment to do so.
Jose Israel Gonzalez Jr.
Supporting Opportunities for Latinos President
As president of Supporting Opportunities for Latinos, Gonzalez, senior mechanical engineering major, is an advocate for his organization, as well as Latino males at NIU. He said one of his major goals is to “beat the statistic” that most Latino students do not attend or graduate from post-secondary education. Gonzalez believes SOL helps students beat this.
“It helped me manage opportunities, and I was able to relate to the guys in it,” Gonzalez said.
He feels other members come from similar backgrounds and understand where he is coming from and where he may have struggled.
Gonzalez has been a part of the organization since 2012 and has worked his way up to being the president.
“Sometimes we find ourselves part of something that is not benefiting us, and we tend to do that rather than something that matters,” Gonzalez said. “Supporting Opportunities for Latinos [matters] for me.”
Gonzalez said SOL has helped him in many ways, and he hopes to be part of an engineering firm where he can recruit other members and provide them with jobs.
Gonzalez said he is not all work, and when he is not helping SOL, he can be found playing soccer or working out. He said one of his favorite things to do is cook. He cooks mostly Latin dishes, but likes to put an American twist on them, such as the Americanized version of roasted goat.
Association of Latino Professionals For America President
Alcantar is a graduate accounting major and the president of the Association of Latino Professionals For America. This organization encourages Latino students to build professional careers.
Alcantar was elected president this semester after being involved for two years. She said one of her favorite things to do with the organization is when they go to local high schools and encourage first generation students to pursue a college education. Alcantar is a first-generation student and credited her success to her determined and driven nature.
“I am passionate about giving back through financial literacy,” Alcantar said. “Students are not always the most informed about how to manage their finances and to apply for scholarships; I really like to help out those students.”