As colorful flags representing Spanish speaking countries fluttered from the ceiling of the Great Hall in the Winnet Student Life Building, more than 100 members of the College family and their guests enjoyed Latin music, fajitas and uplifting messages during the 5th Annual Hispanic Heritage Month Luncheon on October 1.
Students took the stage to discuss their paths at Community College of Philadelphia and shared career goals. Dr. Donald Generals, College president, opened the program and welcomed the audience in Spanish.
The luncheon was one of several events planned to mark Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15. Upcoming events include a conversation on identity differences on October 14, a Muestra de Arte (Art Show) on October 16 featuring work by actor and artist Paolo Andino and a Latin Caribbean Concert on October 22.
Student speaker Juan Quintero, a Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management major, spoke briefly about his chance to work at Disney World. In 2011 and 2012, he applied to the Disney College Program, a competitive internship that immerses students in Disney’s world-famous hospitality culture. Only a fraction of program applicants are accepted into the program each year, according to news reports.
“Disney came to the College and spoke about the program and gave a presentation. If they hadn’t come, I wouldn’t have known about it,” said Quintero, whose goal is to become a renowned chef. “As an intern, I learned how to interact with guests. I was used as a translator since I’m bilingual. I was a good team leader and I assisted the managers and filled in as a cook when needed.”
Cynthia Huertas, a Business Administration major and treasurer for the Student Government Association, added that her creativity has blossomed here. “I write poetry. I write songs for R&B and Rock,” she said. “There’s a lot of talent here, which is why I’ve been networking and meeting people.”
Ms. Joann Gonzalez-Generals, the former executive director of student success at Caldwell University in New Jersey delivered the keynote speech. Gonzalez-Generals, who is married to Dr. Generals, shared her life story and stressed the importance of completing an academic credential.
“I am the proud daughter of immigrants,” Ms. Gonzalez-Generals said. “My mother was born in Colombia and my father and stepfather were Dominican. I am a first-generation college student.” She said her parents taught her that education was the key to financial independence. “My mother would say, ‘Stay in school so that you’ll never have to rely on anyone’,” she said.
As the nation’s largest racial minority, the progress made by Hispanics today affects the well-being of society, Gonzalez-Generals said. “If Hispanics are not educated, that would be devastating to all of us in the country,” she said.
In closing, she encouraged students to reach for their dreams. “Sometimes, you have to take the leap and build your wings on the way down,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to take risks. Take your chances, or someone else will.”