Valley celebrates Latinx heritage on El Día de Reconocimiento

Valley recognizes Latinx students’ accomplishments and recognizes the Latinx community

By Isabella Vodos, Staff Writer

Graduating Latinx students of the class of 2022 line up at the Día de Reconocimiento 2022 graduation at the Student Union Plaza on May 18, 2022. Día de Reconocimiento is hosted by Mi Comunidad, a campus volunteer organization dedicated to empowering Latinx students. (Griffin O'Rourke / The Valley Star)

Over 200 Latinx students gathered with their families to celebrate their success on Wednesday next to the Student Union Plaza.

This is Valley’s eighth annual celebration partnered with Mi Comunidad, a volunteer organization that supports Latinx students and encourages them to succeed. The collective includes faculty and staff who identify as Latinx and are allies of students. Through this sponsor, students are able to participate in numerous activities that strengthen the Latinx community.

The nonprofit’s last in-person event was in May 2019. In 2020 and 2021, the event was interrupted by COVID-19.

As the event began at 5 p.m., guests traversed in, filled their spots and lined up for food and refreshments. They were given a program decorated with bougainvillea flowers and rustic bricks curated by Dianna Flores Martinez, the Mosaic Center secretary. Flower centerpieces with a monarch butterfly symbolizing undocumented students were placed on every table.

There were four guests who spoke on behalf of the graduates. The speakers included acting Associate Dean of Student Equity Alex Ojeda, President Barry Gribbons, Vice President of Student Services Florentino Manzano and the LACCD Board Vice President David Buelna. While the speeches continued, Mi Comunidad presented a slide show of the first generation students.

Buelna launched the evening with a speech of the achievements of Latinx students in their time at Valley. He explained that students are survivors and fighters. He told everyone to think of everything they have accomplished, such as the long study nights. At the end of his speech, he asked graduates to stand up and reminded them that it can be so hard to graduate as a person of color.

“You’re history, you have weathered the storm and now you’re here,” said Buelna in his speech. “Twenty percent is Latinx background yet only one percent of textbooks and movies have to do with Latinx. We got to contain, receive, obtain and grab. We need to stay involved to manage power.”

Ojeda mentioned that events like these exemplify Latinx students. He concluded that a lot of Latinx students are parentified, meaning that even though they aren’t necessarily parents they serve in parental roles to their younger siblings, creating an additional layer of adversity towards receiving a diploma or degree.

Valley President Barry Gribbons awards medals to Latinx graduates on El Día de Reconocimiento at the Student Union Plaza. Photo taken on May 18, 2022. (Griffin O'Rourke / The Valley Star)

“Having this in-person event is a welcome back and a farewell, because a lot of students are transferring and have never been on campus before,” said Ojeda. “It lets students know how important their success is despite their struggles in the past.”

Martinez, the Mosaic Center secretary, is proud of her program design as it reflects the Latinx culture.

“When I was first thinking about the way I wanted everything to look, I thought of just flowers,” said Martinez. “The first thing that came to my mind was a hacienda, a Mexican hacienda and just the way they are very rustic and old. I wanted to bring the beauty of that into our actual design.”

The Student Union Plaza was livened with cheese enchiladas, rice, beans and pan dulces, which are Hispanic pastries. There was a live music show performed by a Hispanic group called Trio Ostia and directed by former Valley employee Roberto Gutierrez. Students received scholarship recognition from administrators and were honored with medallions to recognize their hard work.

“I really love that this event is on campus and in person with all the families here because most of my semester was pushed online,” said Jasmine Hernandez-Meza, a psychology major. “Even though I left the semester before all of this I was still sent an email saying we still want to celebrate you as a Latin American graduate here with your family and honestly it’s amazing seeing different cultures.”