Celebrating 25 Years of Latinx Culture at Northeastern
Northeastern’s Latinx Student Cultural Center celebration reminded William Rodriguez of progress made and dreams made, including his own.
Rodriguez, a dual Husky graduate, came to Northeastern in 1982 as a master’s student at the College of Criminal Justice. On Tuesday evening, he gave the keynote speech marking the 25th anniversary of the cultural center he helped build.
“The center means a lot to me,” Rodriguez said in an interview ahead of his speech. “Because it’s part of an evolution, of a movement, that we started even before the center was created.
One of the goals of the Latinx Student Cultural Center was to become a home for students from diverse backgrounds, Rodriguez said.
“We call it the casita, which means “the little house” in Spanish,” said Jasmine Velazco, a fourth-year journalism student in the San Francisco Bay Area. “It’s really where I feel the most comfortable.
“When I’m homesick, I go there and talk to Sara (Rivera), the assistant director, and tell her about my problems,” Velazco said. “Sometimes I miss speaking Spanish, so I go there and speak Spanish. This is where I met most of my friends here at Northeastern, and I can say with certainty that most people go to the center because of the community that has been built.
The center helps develop students’ leadership skills in addition to providing work experiences as well as scholarships for students in financial need.
“What young people wanted was to integrate academic and extracurricular activities and services into one place,” recalled Rodriguez, who also earned a law degree at Northeastern. “And they wanted to call him home. There are a multitude of ethnicities within our own lineages that needed to have that representation and resonate with other groups. the Latinx Center in its early days. During his commencement speech, Rodriguez recalled that he was working at Northeastern when he enlisted the support of former President John A. Curry to establish a Latinx presence on a campus destined to become cosmopolitan.
“President Curry believed in the underdog,” said Rodriguez, who is now a clinical instructor at Boston University. “It was a retention strategy. It was not only because we wanted to celebrate our culture, but also because we saw [the center] as an instrument to build a course that will engage our students.
The event, held on the heels of Hispanic Heritage Month, featured food, drink and music for a crowd of more than 75 people. Video links related to Partner Celebrations hosted by Northeast Alumni in New York and Miami.
“When I first came here from New York – from Fort Apache, Bronx – I didn’t see people who looked like me,” Rodriguez said, and he remembered “how was scary”.
Now, decades later, he was coming full circle. It was while at Northeastern that Rodriguez met his wife, Diane Ciarletta, who today serves as the university’s director of career design. Their two oldest children are Northeastern graduates and their third is a current student.
All were with him to help celebrate this culmination of his long-ago vision. Ana Rusch, the outgoing director of the Latinx Student Cultural Center, presented Rodriguez with an award, but not before offering advice to future generations.
“Don’t forget your roots,” Rodriguez said.
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