Josh Falcone – General Assignment Reporter –
Junior John Wilson, treasurer of the Organization of Latin American Students, always looks forward to the group’s annual “Noche de Gala” dinner dance.
“We come together,” Wilson said, “and show Southern what we are capable of. Also it is such a great time. I love the food, the music, and the dancing. I feel like I’m back home.”
Anna Rivera-Alfaro, the OLAS advisor said the “Noche de Gala” originally was a night for the group to enjoy some dinner and dancing while also raising funds in order to maintain the organization. Rivera-Alfaro also said that in 2008, students involved with the group decided that they wanted to give back to the Latino community- future Latino college students in particular.
Rivera-Alfaro said from then on the scholarship has been awarded to an incoming or current Latino freshman at Southern. The OLAS selects the criteria and collaborates with the Connecticut Association of Latinos in Higher Education in the selection and award process. Each year, the scholarship (or scholarships) are awarded at the annual scholarship dinner hosted by the CALAHE, Rivera-Alfaro said.
OLAS president, Erika Colon said that she remembers when she was a freshman, the “Noche de Gala was one of the biggest events of the year and the night helps someone realize their dream.
“Every little bit counts,” Colon said, “to offer help to our fellow students.”
This year’s event was titled “El Caribe: The Hidden Beauties and celebrated Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.” The night was filled with traditional cuisine, dancing, and a feeling of community.
“It’s a fun night,” Colon said. “It is something everyone can enjoy, both members and non-members.”
Rivera-Alfaro said that the OLAS has been able to offer at least one yearly scholarship since the program began in 2008, and she is proud of what the event has become and done for future Latino students.
“I am proud of the students that originally took the initiative to recognize the need in the community,” she said “and did something about it. I am also proud of the students that work hard each year to meet their annual goal.”