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Latino Student Association connects UNG students to Hispanic culture

Hispanic Heritage Month
Nataly Morales Villa, left, and Beatriz Martinez selected Mexico as their Latin American country for the 2016 Expo Fair.

Growing up in California and Georgia, Bryan Herrera didn't feel connected to his Hispanic culture. In fact, he admitted his Spanish-speaking skills were "awful."

But when Herrera enrolled at the University of North Georgia (UNG), he finally found a connection.

"With the Latino Student Association (LSA), I was introduced to a new world, culture and people," the sophomore computer science major said.

Herrera connected with his heritage by meeting other UNG students with Latino backgrounds.

Dr. Robert Robinson, director of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA), said that's the purpose of the MSA and student organizations such as the LSA on the Gainesville Campus, the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) on the Dahlonega Campus, and the Spanish Club on the Oconee Campus.

"We have several students who are not familiar with their culture and this gives them a foundation," Robinson said.

The LSA, however, does not limit itself to only connecting Latino students to each other. The student-run organization shares its culture with fellow UNG students during Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

Hispanic Heritage Month will feature several activities, starting with the Expo Fair from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13, at the volleyball courts on the Gainesville Campus. Music, food and games will be available for all students.

The Oconee Spanish Club will sponsor a Day of the Dead presentation from noon to 1 p.m. Oct. 31 in SRC 522. Dr. Ken Martin will talk about the history of the celebration and explain what it is today. Ethnic food will be served. The event is free and open to everyone.

The Dahlonega campus is in the process of planning its events.

The Expo Fair is a design board competition with students selecting a Latin American country and displaying information about it. Judges will pick the best board. The deadline to enter is Sept. 6. Interested students should email Roany Casas, LSA vice president of membership, at rcasa0644@ung.edu to enter.

Other Hispanic Heritage Month events on the Gainesville Campus include:

  • Sept. 27: Dance performance
  • Oct. 4: LSA alumni panel
  • Oct. 11: Keynote speaker
  • Oct. 14-15: Great Latino Debate

The first three events will take place from noon to 1 p.m. in the Robinson Ballroom at the Student Center. The debate will be an all-day event in the Martha T. Nesbitt Building.

The debate is a collaboration among the LSA, MSA and Debate Club. In previous years, participants were given the topics in advance, allowing them time to prepare their speeches. But this year marks a change.

The new format will follow the World Series or British Parliament debate style, Herrera said. That means participants will receive the topic 15 minutes before the debate, said Kyle Murphy, limited term coordinator for MSA and Latino Success.

As the LSA president, Herrera is looking forward to the new style and debate, especially since it is all in Spanish.

"It's given me more of an appreciation of the Spanish language," said Herrera, who is from Loganville, Georgia. "The debate also helps me critically think in a language I rarely use, and it is good practice with public speaking."

Robinson said the Latin Debate marks UNG's willingness to embrace and accept the cultures of the native speakers. He also hopes it marks the beginning of similar events, pointing out UNG has a large population of Asian students.

"We could have Korean or Mandarin events, depending on the student population," he said. "Those are things to come in the future."

For more information about Hispanic Heritage Month or the LSA, visit the LSA website or LSA Facebook page.

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