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Hispanic Heritage

Hispanic Heritage

Every year, with lots of help from University Life staff, I host a tea with students associated with the many identity weeks that dot our calendar: GLBTQ, Asia and Pacific, Native American, African American, and of course, Hispanic. I can’t claim the events are usually very large — lots of our students barely know where Mason Hall is — but they are often interesting and informative.

Recent discussion with several Hispanic student leaders was certainly vivid. I know we have a large and growing Hispanic student population and that our retention and graduation rates for this group are reassuring. It was extremely helpful to learn how much students themselves assure these results.

Hispanic student organizations are actively reaching out to high school populations. They also provide a supportive environment to students once here, through social activities and mentoring. The basic Hispanic Student Association is supplemented by lots of other groups: sororities, the Mariposa mentoring group, even interest organizations like Salsa (to which I was invited but prudently declined). While the leaders worry that too many students remain unaware of the assistance available, it’s clear that the various contacts are deeply meaningful to lots of people and represent extensive commitment from many of those involved.

I was also told of an active petition drive (at Mason and several other Virginia schools) toward furthering a Dream Act, of the sort operative in Texas, recently passed in California, and under active consideration in Maryland. Mason clearly has a number of really able students, graduates of Virginia schools, who struggle greatly under the burden of out-of-state tuition. I am fully aware that the current political climate is probably not too friendly to a Dream Act in the Commonwealth, but things change, and the cause certainly deserves wide attention.