Walking up to the Andover campus today, you are greeted by a delicious aroma of quesadillas, tacos and burritos, provided by Leo’s Taqueria and Catering. As one enters the 5000 building, Spanish music can be heard, and fellow Hispanic American Leadership Organization (HALP) members, along with faculty and staff, greet people leading them into the Kanza Room.
HALO partnered with the Inclusion Council to host La Gran Fiesta today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Andover campus. The event highlighted Spanish speaking places and booths where the HALO organization helped others make paper flowers, or Papel Picado. Kelsey Harper’s, an associate professor of Spanish, students helped with the event. In the background at La Gran Fiesta was a slideshow Harper’s students had created.
“I made them choose a Spanish-speaking country of their choice,” Harper, a recent addition of the Inclusion Council, said. “Pick a few photos that are interesting to you, and we will make a slideshow. “One girl chose Equatorial Guinea, which is the only Spanish speaking country in Africa.”
Monica Zavala, an Admissions counselor, is also a part of the Inclusion Council and is the sponsor of HALO. The council, which is made up of college employees, has smaller teams, and Zavala is a team leader for the Student Development Leadership team.
“Since it was Hispanic Heritage Month starting [Wednesday,] Sept. 15 to [Friday,] Oct. 15, they [the Inclusion Council] asked if HALO wanted to do anything together,” Zavala said. “We came up with the idea of putting together one big event at the end.”
For Victoria Gonzalez, a nursing student and HALO president, this has been her first time to host and participate in organization events. “…we did a scavenger hunt in El Dorado, and it was full of clues that were Hispanic Heritage Month trivia,” Gonzalez said. “We had a Loteria and Uno night at Andover, and it was just Mexican bingo. We played a giant game of Uno, which was really fun. We also had impromptu karaoke.”
She spoke of what it means to be Hispanic and Mexican.
“It’s just about representing my family,” Gonzalez said. “I try to live the life my family could not live. My abuelita grew up in Honduras, and she was very, very poor. She was in very bad circumstances, and the same with my dad’s side of the family, so for me, I just try to be as successful as I can. They paved the way for me to have this opportunity, so I try to represent my family as best as I can.”
Although Hispanic Heritage Month is ending on Friday, Oct. 15, Gonzalez spoke about the importance of culture and community.
“I want them (students) to gain knowledge and instead of being like ‘oh, that girl is Mexican’; instead of just stereotyping, get to know all sorts of cultures,” Gonzalez said. “For students, I want them to be able to get friends, and I’ve noticed this one girl who has completely come out of their shell. I want to help other people grow as well. It’s just a really great place for all of us to be a little family. I’ve made so many friends, and we have a really good time.”
For those who are interested in joining HALO, the organization meets every Tuesday on the El Dorado campus in the Student Union, Room 10-142 or you can join by Zoom. For more information, email Zavala, the sponsor: email@example.com.
On Tuesday, Oct. 19 at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., HALO will host a Loteria night in the Student Union in El Dorado.