The annual celebration honors the achievements of Elon’s Latinx/Hispanic graduates, and the contributions their families and friends have made throughout their educational journey.
When Francisca and Alejo Martinez immigrated to North Carolina decades ago, they were seeking a better life for their young family. They were thousands of miles away from their native Oaxaca, Mexico, and everything that was familiar to them, but their desire to improve their lives was stronger. They endured many hardships working blue-collar jobs, sometimes making just enough money to get by.
On Thursday afternoon, as they sat in Lakeside Meeting Rooms cheering on their daughter, Ana Martinez G’22, during the “¡Celebremos!: Graduates Take Flight” event, all that struggle came into focus. “We have been fighting for 22 years to get ahead, to provide a better life for our children,” said Alejo, adding that Ana is their second daughter to get a master’s degree. “She is following in her sister’s footsteps.”
That older sister, Griselda, was also there to support Ana, alongside their younger sister, Jennifer. All were glowing with pride. “I’m super proud of her,” Francisca said.
“We had worked hard, but this, this is all her – she worked hard to get here,” added Alejo.
The Martinez family exemplify the reason for the event – to honor Elon’s Latinx/Hispanic students graduating with bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as the contributions their families, friends and extended village have made during their time at Elon.
Each student honored during the celebration received an Elon pin and a special stole, which was designed by one of their own, Nico Gaspar ’22, and features a monarch butterfly.
“A few years ago, a group of students decided to adopt the monarch butterfly as a symbol of the journey our Latinx/Hispanic community has made,” said Sylvia Muñoz, assistant dean of students and director of the Center for Race, Ethnicity & Diversity Education. She went on to explain that every year millions of monarch butterflies migrate from north to south, making many stops along the way to recharge. “We, as part of the Latinx/Hispanic community, understand that no matter where we come from and no matter where our journey takes us, we have all found ourselves at this stop at the same time, Elon has become one of our stops to recharge and to think about our next destination.
“So today, we want to give you this stole and pin as symbols of the journey that brought you to Elon.”
In return, the students wrote messages of gratitude that were read throughout the event.
“I am proud of how far I have come, and I am grateful to my parents every day for the values they taught me that have helped me succeed,” wrote Ana, who graduated with a Master of Arts in Interactive Media. “From teaching me how to brush my teeth, to reminding me to always treat people with respect, and even taking hours of their time after working 10-plus-hour night shifts to develop a plan for funding my academic ambitions, they have supported me from the very beginning.”
Other students shared similar sentiments. “Familia — thank you so much for the encouragement and support throughout my educational journey,” wrote Maria Mendoza ’22, who received the Outstanding Senior Award for her leadership and mentorship throughout her time at Elon. She also thanked Elon for providing opportunities and a home away from home.
For Muñoz, the event provided an opportunity to remind students that Elon will be cheering them on as they prepare for life ahead.
“I hope that this stop in your journey offered you the opportunity to learn about yourselves, to learn about others and to recharge to find the path to your next destination,” Muñoz said. “Thank you for allowing us at Elon to bear witness to the beginning of your next chapter. We can’t wait to see what lies ahead of you all.”
Honored at ¡Celebremos!: Graduates Take Flight were:
- Angy Aguilar ’22
- Fernando Aviles ’22
- Benjamin Blanco-Gutierrez ’22
- Paloma Camacho ’22
- Rebecca Carranza ’22
- Jennifer Castillo ’22
- Sofia Cordova ’22
- Isabella Corrales ’22
- Isabella DeLaGarza ’22
- Corinna Fonseca G’22
- Shelly Freund ’22
- Nico Gaspar ’22
- Erika Kim ’22
- Carolina Lage ’22
- Ana Martinez G’22
- Bella Martinez ’22
- Jovani Mendez-Sandoval ’22
- Maria Mendoza ’22
- Rafa Picó ’22
- Sophia Robinson ’22
- Ian Rondón ’22
- Aidan Rodriguez ’22
- Esmeralda Rodriguez ’22
- Daniela Romero G’22
- Marguerite Rude ’22
- Mira Sanderson ’22
- Lily Santiago ’22
- Grace Talbert ’22
- Andy Torres-Reyes ’22
- Julian Valderrama ’22
- Nelson Ysabel G’22