Students sitting around a table with their instructor.

Celebrating Voices: Penn State Fayette Highlights Student Initiatives During Hispanic Heritage Month

LEMONT FURNACE, Pa. — In recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, spotlights students advocating for enhanced support and representation of its Hispanic and Latinx communities. Keyli Portillo and Bianca Stupka weigh in on the need for mentorships and diverse student organizations.

Keyli Portillo standing outside.

Keyli Portillo

What should colleges do to support their Hispanic/Latinx communities?

"Possibly more accessibility to mentorships," Portillo said. "Not just for [the Hispanic and Latinx communities], but there are many first-generation students like me who have no idea about the possibilities colleges—Penn State in particular—have to offer. More guidance with understanding the minors and certificates and so on."

Why do you think it's important to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month?

"It is important to remember one's roots because no matter what, it is a part of who you are and what makes you—you." 

What program are you studying, and what inspired you to pursue it?

Portillo is a dual major studying Psychology and Criminal Justice. "My uncle was a huge factor in what influenced my interests in these fields," she said.

Bianca Stupka

What should colleges do to support their Hispanic/Latinx communities?

Stupka highly encourages universities to highlight their diversity and emphasize their students' accomplishments, their role in the community, and their unique identities. 

"[That is] just one part of it," Stupka said. "Making connections with those students and welcoming them is the rest of it. I also think the clubs encouraging diversity, like our Cultural Appreciation of Latin America (CALA) club, are extremely successful in making Latinx students feel welcome while also helping non-Latinx students understand diversity more thoroughly and encouraging them to show interest in other cultures."

What is your role within CALA?

"Despite being the president of the organization, I am not Latinx myself and have no personal experience; I want to emphasize this so as to not overshadow the voices of our Latinx students," Stupka said. "However, when Dr. Pineda expressed to me how important the club was to her, and how she wanted it to spark student interest in Latin American culture while also making Latinx students feel appreciated, I wanted to help achieve these goals." 

"Our hope is that we can create an internet in diverse cultures and an understanding of the experiences of Latinx people among the students."

How can other students help the organization?

"Other students can help our organization simply by listening to Latinx voices and being open and accepting toward diverse cultural practices," Stupka said. "An easy way to accomplish both of these would be to join our club, where we emphasize Latinx experiences and voices while also appreciating and learning about their cultures. And, if anyone has an interest in attending CALA meetings, they could email me at [email protected] for further information." 

Stupka added, "Club meetings will try to be flexible with times and dates so as to accommodate all members' schedules. Currently, we're hoping to meet twice a month on alternating days during campus common hour; the first meeting will be on a Wednesday of October 4, 2023 from noon to 1:00 p.m. taking place in the Student Success Center." 

"During this meeting, we will be putting up posters on campus about historical Latinx figures in order to recognize their impact during Hispanic Heritage Month. Our future meeting ideas include both informational activities and hands-on cultural activities, such as making Mexican salsa using fresh vegetables from the campus garden."