The pandemic may have prevented the Latino Resource Center’s typical celebration of Latino Heritage Month, but efforts to embrace the Latino culture at NIU remain strong.
And those efforts are growing along with the Latinx population on campus.
According to the official census on the 10th day of attendance this year, Latinx enrollment accounts for 23 percent of the incoming class. That’s up 3 percentage points from last year.
Known as the LRC, the Latino Resource Center serves a central resource for Latinos on campus and in the community.
Along with cultural, social and academic programs to enhance the classroom experience of students throughout the year, the center typically provides a firsthand look at Latin culture and its influence on the United States and American society with a variety of Latino Heritage Month events.
Latin culture is imbued with passion and expressed through art, dance, music and literary contributions, among numerous others.
Even in a virtual world, that passion can be felt.
“The pandemic has been very challenging for everybody, but we’re still working to keep our culture alive and celebrate our culture in the best possible way,” Latino Resource Center Director Luis Santos-Rivas said.
Among recent events were a virtual open house, open forum, induction ceremony and Noche de Colores, a free will paint night with materials provided by Student Affairs and distributed in the center.
Sharing a building with the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies, the LRC provides programs and resources to help students fulfill their dreams.
A unit of the Academic Diversity Equity and Inclusion (ADEI), the center partners with programs across campus to facilitate internships and community service projects and introduce Huskies to student organizations and other opportunities to develop leadership and career skills.
Past celebrations of Latino Heritage Month have included a popular Latin Chill kick-off event, tailgates, el grito, Noche de Gala and more.
Latin Chill not only kicked off Latino Heritage Month, it served as the center’s welcome to new and returning students, Santos-Rivas said. Although this year’s celebration had to be cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions, he wants students to know the center is open and eager to embrace all as recruitment efforts ramp up.
“We’re doing the best we can to make a home away from home environment for all the students on campus,” he said.