Why is programming for Hispanic & Latinx students vital, not just during Hispanic & Latinx Heritage Month (September 15-October 15) but year-round?
When we’re meeting students’ needs in the way we should, the ultimate outcome should be them feeling a profound sense of belonging. Something seemingly simple and yet, too often, difficult to make real. In a time where student stress, disconnection, and their retention are urgent mandates, what could be more powerful than programming that makes them feel not just seen but celebrated?
Currently, 21.8% of U.S. college students are Hispanic or Latinx/a/o/e, the second largest ethnic group enrolled at the undergraduate level, and yet far too many schools do little if any programming that directly serves this diverse and rapidly growing population.
Each year, September 15th to October 15th marks Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month in the United States. For me, in celebrating not just the dynamic and varied lineages that comprise Latin Americans but also the dynamic and varied lineages that comprise us all, I think of my own pride and connection to my Colombian heritage as a bridge to other peoples’ many identities, especially those that have been overlooked, unseen, erased, or otherwise devalued across history. Put differently, I think of Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month as a way for the many stories of Latin America to sing in harmony with a chorus of marginalized voices inflected with all dimensions of identity, like race, gender, sexuality, dis/ability, socioeconomic class, nationality, religion, and beyond.
And why should this programming be relevant beyond just this single month at the start of each semester? Well, in short: every and any month is the right time for a gathering that centers belonging, connection, and a cultural celebration. Any month is the right time to invite students out of their rooms, away from their solitude, and into a space together.
Listen, I’ve been doing this for a long time. At this point, I’m the longest tenured poet on the NACA circuit and perhaps in the college market. Many of my most cherished memories visiting colleges, universities, and high schools over these past 22 years (nearly 1,600 events!) have been stepping into a room of strangers and using my poems, stories, and the invitation of conversation as a way to scaffold community and friendships that participants walk out of a venue with at the end of an hour.
Whether it’s this Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month or another time during the year, I hope to see you at your school very soon. Let’s make our campuses a place for everyone to feel seen, connected, and celebrated. Never has there been a more urgent moment for this kind of programming than now.