The Joseph A. Unanue Latino Institute held their first-ever annual scholar induction ceremony on Feb. 21.
Anthony Samaniego, a sophomore diplomacy and international relations major, said the ceremony served to recognize the achievements of Latino students who often feel underrepresented on campus.
He said to be inducted for the 2022-2023 school year, students must have received the Joseph and Carmen Ana Student Scholarship, a scholarship award given to students who demonstrate academic excellence and an appreciation for Latino and Hispanic culture.
Maria Lugo, a sophomore diplomacy and international relations major, said she is fortunate to be able to attend Seton Hall as a Latino student because of the scholarship.
“The scholarship is really a central reason why I can be here,” Lugo said. “The scholars that I've met are not by any means the richest group of people I've ever met in my life, and so I think that definitely said something about how valuable being a scholar is.”
Samaniego said 28 students were inducted this semester. He said he was among the five students who attended the ceremony.
“The Latino Institute scholar ceremony does more than just recognize each individual scholar for their accomplishments,” Samaniego said. “They congratulated us as a team, giving us a sense of teamwork and family. Being inducted was one of the proudest and most joyous moments of my life. I felt really appreciated and loved by my family members, friends and peers.”
Samaniego said growing up in Latino communities, students often face pressure to meet their families’ expectations among other difficulties. He said the ceremony was intended as a celebration of the challenges that Latino students continue to overcome.
“Latino students face the fear of not fitting in, specifically at a predominantly white institution,” Samaniego said. “The ceremony is a reflection and result of a life’s worth of hard work and dedication.”
Samaniego added that the ceremony provided students the opportunity to connect with those of similar cultural backgrounds.
“The ceremony allowed me to revisit some of the cultural ties I grew up with in my household,” Samaniego said. “Rather than having to hide it, I could share my family’s background at the ceremony, along with my peers who share similar stories.”
Lugo said the ceremony sets itself apart because of “how inclusive it feels.”
“Oftentimes, at other ceremonies, there might be a lot of other people who you might not really be that connected with, but I know every single scholar that was also inducted,” Lugo said. “I have the honor of working at the Latino Institute, and it’s really nice to see how we all do come together.”
Amber Aragon, a junior political science and Latin American/Latino/Latina studies double major, said she appreciated the atmosphere of the ceremony.
“I felt proud of myself,” Aragon said. “In a place where I can feel comfortable and accepted for who I am, it felt really nice to have that community.”
Aragon said the Latino Institute offers a support system for Latino students on campus.
“We are growing in number, and there’s no single struggle that Latino students have,” Aragon said. “The thing about the Latino Institute is that it’s really like a family.”
Peyton Hruska can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.