5/18/14: An earlier version of this story was removed for factual errors.
The Los Rios Community College District acknowledged 81 Latino students from the Los Rios Community College District, including 12 from American River College, at the 6th annual Honoring our Students event May 7.
The students received a colored certificate, a colored poster and a colored sash to wear over their cap and gown during graduation. The awards were given to honor the students’ educational achievements.
Dolores Huerta, women’s advocate and co-founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW) was the keynote speaker for the event.
“Our Latino staff in the Los Rios district when they were younger were activists for UFW, so they were politically active when they were younger,” said Sharon Padilla-Alvarado, an organizer for the event and faculty coordinator for Los Rios. Huerta received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2012.
Many different groups and organizations have been involved in the Honoring our Students event since its’ beginnings in 2009, serving as speakers, mentors, and financial supporters of the event.The celebration was financed, in part, by groups such as the Association of Raza Educators and the Northern California Foco (National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies), and catered by Xochimilco Restaurant.
Students wrote about what inspired their success, and many students thanked the families and faculty members who helped them reach this point.
“To me, being honored in this way allowed me to feel like a part of something that’s much bigger than me, due to the program’s specification towards Latinos,” said Joanna Mejia, a student who was honored at the event, in an email to the Current.
“I felt loved, appreciated, proud and empowered to be honored by my college and my district alongside my fellow Latino and Latina graduates,” said Yaquelin Ruiz, another honored student, in an email to the Current.
The event was also held to bring attention to the underrepresentation of Latinos on many college campuses.
“Latinos are underrepresented in the college level. We feel it’s important to acknowledge the accomplishments they have made in their educational goals,” said Padilla-Alvarado.
Despite these challenges, those who organized the event remain dedicated to the cause of equality.
“The Los Rios Latino/a Faculty and Staff Association (LRLFSA) is deeply committed to narrowing the achievement gap for our Latino/a students as well as students of color. The collaborative efforts of the four schools have enhanced the efficacy of this program,” said Rhonda Rios Kravitz, an organizer for the event, in an email to the Current.
Honoring our Students is held at different colleges every year and will be held at Cosumnes River College in 2015.