Amigos Latinos Gala Celebrates Diversity and Collaboration
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On Friday, April 14, the Office of Latino Affairs hosted its fourth annual Amigos Latinos Gala. Created four years ago by Tony Ortiz alongside the Office of Latino Affairs (OLA), the gala is a night full of fun for Latinos, their friends and supporters.
Attendees enjoyed a wonderful dinner provided by Wright State’s hospitality services. During the dinner, they had a silent auction and a cash bar available. Awards were presented to various students throughout the night: Outstanding Staff/Faculty Award (La Amiga Querida), the Community Advocate Award (El Amigo del Pueblo), the Melissa Ortiz-Bebbington Scholarship and eight individual OLA scholarships.
The gala had several prestigious speakers through the night: Cheryl McHenry, a news anchor from WHIO, and Representative Rick Perales, from the Ohio House of Representatives. McHenry was the first to provide the opening remarks of the event.
“Since 1980, the Latino population has tripled in the state of Ohio,” McHenry told the audience. “Since 2000, the number of Hispanic Ohioans has increased by 89 percent. Wright State has been a part of this increase, and 2014 opened the office of Latino Affairs to foster a supportive environment that enhances the success of Latino students, the Latino community and the economic development of the region.” McHenry briefly discussed the goal of graduating and sending Latinos through Wright State into the Miami Valley and beyond.
Currently, Wright State serves more than five hundred Latino students, but “more growth is expected.” In the past ten years, Wright State University has graduated over six hundred Latino students in all academic areas.
After McHenry’s speech, Rick Perales stepped up to the stage.
“I think I’ve been here every year and I so appreciate you folks inviting me to be here,” Perales said. “It’s important for me to be up here to tell folks just how important what you do is and it’s gonna get even more important.”
Perales then presented a resolution from the State House to Julia Acosta, the director of the OLA.
“I do want to say something: we’re in for some tough times and I think everyone out there knows that,” Perales continued. “I think everyone here knows the state budget is tight; there’s not gonna be a lot of money there. Everyone here knows what’s going on at Wright State. It’s a great university, we will get past this, but it’s gonna be a couple tough years.” Throughout the audience, people nodded at his words.
“The reason I’m saying this now is this organization has done so much, and my concern is that after all the cuts are made, and everything is said and done, the people that are gonna be most vulnerable are the exact people that you folks are helping,” Perales looked over the crowd as he said this, “It means you are gonna have to step your game up – if you can even step it up more – because they depend on you.”
Perales said he would do his part in the State House and that he would do everything he could for Wright State.
After a few more opening remarks and a comedy act, the guests were released to dinner. After most people had finished eating, the night continued with the awards and scholarships presentation. The evening was wrapped up with a live salsa band performance from Son del Caribe. The proceeds from the event go to future scholarships for Latino students, adding to the $15,000 already awarded that night.
However, the event wasn’t just for Latinos. It was for the community of Latinos and those who support them. Bolivian brothers Josh and Micah Harris were joined by their Arabian friend, Mohammed Shehab, who laughed while calling himself an “honorary Latino.”
“It’s the motto,” Josh Harris said, “you don’t have to be Latino to be a friend.”