by Emily Smith, Editor in Chief
Like other Latino students in the country, Rolando Zenteno’s journey toward graduation has not been smooth sailing. Undocumented students like him pay out of state tuition and are not allowed to attend the top five universities in Georgia. In most schools, it is common for the Latino population to be underrepresented. For this reason, he has made it his mission as a student journalist, multicultural fraternity founder, and advocate to enrich the lives of other Latino students at Armstrong.
Before becoming a brother of Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Zenteno saw the work other chapters were doing in the country and knew that he wanted to bring Lambda’s discipline and work ethic to Armstrong and help develop the next generation of Latino leaders on campus.
“When we came to campus, we said we were going to revolutionize Latino Greek life,” Zenteno said. “Lambda Theta Phi wants to prioritize Armstrong’s goal of becoming a Hispanic-serving institution.”
Brothers of the fraternity have been working diligently writing grants and coordinating guest speakers this fall semester in order to prepare for their biggest event yet. Lambda will host Armstrong’s First Latino Graduation in the spring of 2016. This celebration will recognize Latino graduates and their families in addition to the traditional graduation ceremony.
“This program will spark a movement that’s never been imagined in Savannah and will create a deep sense of belonging for Latino students at Armstrong,” Zenteno says. “The programs and invitations are bilingual and graduates will receive their stoles from their parents during this symbolic ceremony.”
Some Latino parents will have the opportunity to meet other Latino parents who have sons or daughters graduating college for the first time in their families.
This is the first event of its kind in South Georgia, but colleges and universities such as Georgia State University and Harvard have hosted Latino Graduations with great success.
“Armstrong has the perfect environment and Latino demographic to start this tradition,” Zenteno said. “What better time than now, when we’re developing the foundation and legacy of our year-old chapter?” Not to mention Armstrong’s Latino population has been steadily increasing every year.
“Armstrong has a large undocumented population,” Lambda Theta Phi President Emmanuel Diaz said. “[The Latino Graduation] is really an accomplishment for Armstrong.” He explained that the event will encourage more Latino students to attend Armstrong once they see that they are encouraged here.
CNN Correspondent and third generation Latino, Nick Valencia, will be the commencement speaker at Armstrong’s First Latino Graduation. As a graduate from the University of South California School of Journalism, he knows the hardships Latinos face in both school and the workforce.
In a video message addressed to Armstrong students, Valencia says “We have had a lot of struggle. I know in those challenging days that it’s not just about me— that this is about my community.” Like many of the Latino population, Valencia was born to Latino parents and went through tremendous adversity to get to where he is today: CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.
Zenteno and other Latino graduates in and outside the fraternity are devoted to leaving a legacy with this event. Zenteno mentioned, “We want to pitch our grain of sand in creating an unprecedented student-led project at Armstrong, in Georgia and in the South.”