Gala Latina celebrates Latinx roots, accomplishments

The annual event held online on Friday, April 30, honored Latinx/Hispanic students for service, achievement and increasing awareness.

Members of the Latinx/Hispanic community gathered online in Friday, April, for the fourth-annual Gala Latina, a celebration of student achievement and success and an opportunity to continue to strengthen and build community at Elon.

“I know that for you, being at this university is much more than just a personal accomplishment,” said Sylvia Muñoz, associate director of the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education and director of El Centro, in her opening remarks. “It is the accomplishment of a whole community. It is the ultimate outcome of the concept of ‘it takes a village.’ … I am honored to witness how you have become the role models for so many Latinx students who dream of being where you are today.”

Typically held in person, Gala Latina is an opportunity to recognize Latinx/Hispanic students at Elon for excelling in the classroom, in service to the community and for their efforts to raise awareness about Latinx/Hispanic heritage and identity. In her remarks to those gathered for the celebration, President Connie Ledoux Book thanked them for all they bring to the university — the contributions they make in the classroom, in the community and to campus culture.

Jubitza Figueroa ’21, an advocate for the Latinx/Hispanic community and the LGBTQIA+ community, offered a charge to the students, challenging them to look back at what they have achived, and continuing their journeys forward with self-confidence. She offered insight into how she put aside her Latinx identity and her identity as a gay woman, but as she grew, her perspective shifted. She learned to embrace those identities and found the confidence to be revolutionary.

“Our community is constantly on the search for a better, more equitable livelihood and every day we breathe, we are stepping closer to that self-liberation,” Figueroa said. “There have been so many opportunities for us to stop, quit and let opportunities slip through our hands, yet here we are.”

The event also featured a spoken word performance by Ana Eguiguren ’21 about her growth during her time at Elon and her discovery of the university’s Latinx/Hispanic community. “You will thrive under the oaks of mighty women with dark eyes and flaming smiles who have mentored and pushed and fought for you and those to come, and four years will have gone by and half of your soul will belong to people who became your home,” Eguiguren said.

Recognized during the event were:

Academic Achievement Awards

This award was presented to students with the highest cumulative GPA in their respective classes.

  • Alanis Camacho-Narvaez ’24
  • Karen Cruz-Ruiz ’23
  • Maria José Mendoza ’22
  • Mackenzie Martinez ’21

Latinx/Hispanic Honor Award

This award recognizes a Latinx/Hispanic student’s commitment to the community. This individual has gone above and beyond to create a more inclusive and representative campus for all Latinx/Hispanic students.

  • Valentina Echavarria ’23

Outstanding Senior Award

This award recognizes the leadership, involvement and mentorship exhibited by a Latinx/Hispanic senior throughout their time at Elon.

  • Gabriela Jimenez ’21
  • Ana Eguiguren ’21

Latinx/Hispanic Service Awards

This award recognizes Latinx/Hispanic faculty and staff members for their dedication and constant support to the community’s students, faculty and staff.

  • Keren Rivas ’04, director of publications
  • Federico Pous, associate professor of Spanish in the Department of World Languages and Cultures