Rachelle Nieto said it was really hard at first to find other Hispanic students on campus.
“When I first started school I had no Hispanic friends,” Nieto, a junior majoring in criminology and forensic science from Germantown, Maryland, said. “I’d be in lectures of 300 people, and I’d be the only Hispanic in the entire classroom.”
Then she found Culturas, a student organization that brings together Latinx and Hispanic students and allies.
“If I didn’t find this organization on campus, I honestly don’t know if I would’ve been happy on campus,” Nieto said.
Now the president of Culturas, Nieto said she worked with the WVU Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to set up a Diversity Week event on Monday to help other Hispanic students find a community where they could be themselves, something she wishes she had sooner. The event, called A Tribute to Hispanic Heritage, featured multiple Hispanic and Latinx student organizations including Lambda Theta Alpha, Culturas and WVU Latin Dance Club. Over 50 people attended the event in the Mountainlair, and there was plenty of elote, a spicy corn dish, for everyone.
Emma Locarnini, a potential candidate for Lambda Theta Alpha, a Latina-based sorority, and member of Culturas, said the Latinx community is often overlooked at WVU.
“It’s sometimes very difficult to find a community of people like you when there’s not visibility events like this,” she said.
Héctor De Santiago, an engineering graduate student, is in his first semester at WVU. He came looking to meet Hispanics from different backgrounds.
“In the Hispanic world, each country has its own mini-culture,” Santiago said. “It’s a matter of wanting to know more about others.”
Spenser Darden, WVU director of diversity initiatives and community engagement, said he noticed Hispanic Heritage Month, which is from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, was not being celebrated like other diversity events.
“We wanted to make sure we had an opportunity to celebrate students, faculty and staff that identify as Hispanic,” Darden said. “The hope moving forward would be to find more opportunities to celebrate and educate about Hispanic identities, Latinx identities and Hispanic Heritage Month.”