Gala Latina: A celebration of Latinx/Hispanic success and accomplishments

At the sixth annual Gala Latina, the Latinx/Hispanic community celebrated their root and honored six students, a faculty and a staff member with awards.

The connection between many of the cultures of the Latinx/Hispanic community was on display at the sixth annual Gala Latina held Thursday, Dec. 1, in LaRose Student Commons.

The event sponsored by El Centro and the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education (CREDE) honored six students, a faculty member and a staff member with awards of excellence in front of a room full of their peers. Gala Latina is a celebration of success and achievement within Elon University’s Latinx/Hispanic community and is dedicated to the empowerment of students, faculty, and staff who identify as Latinx/Hispanic.

“We want to welcome, recognize, and celebrate the Latinx/Hispanic community at Elon. It is a celebration of our roots, our hard work, and our resiliency,” said Assistant Director of the CREDE, MJ Larrazabal ’21. “Most importantly, it’s a chance to build and be in ‘communidad,’ or community.”

MJ Larrazabal G’21 accepting the Staff Recognition Award at Gala Latina. Photo taken by Valentina Echavarria.

Typically held in the spring, the event was moved to the fall to extend the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and to welcome first-year students, who received a special gift at Thursday night’s event. “It is a token of us welcoming you into our community,” Larrazabal said in her opening remarks. “Welcome to our family.

“Elon University’s Latinx/Hispanic community is ever-growing and multifaceted, and I have the privilege of spending most of my time with these students,” she continued, “I would be remised if I didn’t tell everyone, you are the strongest people I have ever met.”

Karen Cruz-Ruiz delivers the annual Charge to Students. Photo taken by Valentina Echavarria.

During the presentation of the awards, many of the recipients were truly surprised and grateful for the recognition. Each name called received an ovation and cheers. The night was a celebration of community centered on those who actively uplift it. Nominators often use passionate, determined, role model, advocate and even “a force to be reckoned with” to describe the awardees.

To close the presentation, Latinx/Hispanic Union President Karen Cruz-Ruiz said,

“Don’t forget your roots. You deserve to be here and every good thing that happens in your life.”

Recipients of the annual awards:

Academic Excellence Awards

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

  • Ket Cordova ’23
  • Alanis Camacho-Narvaez ’24
  • Cristy Marine ’25

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.

  • Latinx/Hispanic Honor Award Recipient: Ana Sofía Rodriguez ‘25
  • Latinx/Hispanic Excellence Award Recipient: Sarah Escorcia ‘24

Outstanding Senior Award

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

  • Karen Cruz-Ruiz ‘23

Latinx/Hispanic Service Awards

This award recognizes members of Elon’s faculty and staff who offer constant support to the Latinx/Hispanic community.

  • Israel Balderas, assistant professor of journalism
  • MJ Larrazabal ’21, Assistant Director of the CREDE