By GALINA BELLO
With one of FDU Metro’s pull factors being its diverse student body, it’s no surprise that many student organizations showcase the school’s various cultures.
Curious to know the difference between an empanada and a pastelillo? Want to share with fellow Hispanic students memories of your last trip home to Puerto Rico? Consider joining the Organization of Latin Americans (OLA).
Although it might seem new, the Organization of Latin Americans has actually been part of FDU’s list of cultural organizations for some time. Despite the large number of Latin American students on campus, the OLA was an inactive club until 2015, when two students from the Puerta al Futuro Program, Maria Mans eld and Ivan Quintana, went to the Office of Student Life to start an organization for adult Latino students.
“They told us there was one already on file and if we wanted to, we could reactive it again,” Mans eld said. “So we did. We were officially accepted by the SGA in April 2016.”
The Organization of Latin Americans made its re-appearance this past fall, ready to unite FDU’s Latino population.
Mansfield and Quintana serve as the OLA’s President and Vice President respectively, and they have decided to welcome freshmen to serve on their executive board to guarantee that the OLA remains active in the future.
The OLA currently seeks to expand its membership of 30 students by welcoming all races and nationalities to its events and meetings.
“People have the misconception that they cannot join because they are not Latino,” Secretary Samantha Estrada said. “However, whether you are Latino or not, we welcome any support.”
There are numerous benefits for anyone who joins the OLA.
“Members can benefit by feeling accepted regardless of ethnic background,” Treasurer Surina Chock said. “Benefits of our events include learning to dance to Latin music such as bachata, merengue and salsa. Members also have the opportunity to learn about their background and different Latin countries. We also have co-sponsorships that support certain causes.”
In its first semester, the OLA took part in Knight of the Living Dead, Open House, Holiday Village, Dance Marathon, Bachata Knight and Latin Knight.
“Our most successful event at this moment has been Bachata Knight,” Public Coordinator Grace Lopez said. “It was a really great turnout and everyone had a great time. We had a dancing lesson at the start, and then for the rest of the event you were able to test out your new moves.”
The OLA is planning to host several more similar events.
“This semester we have a few fun events planned like Merengue Knight, Latin Food Festival, and Open Mic Knight,” Estrada said. “In the future, we hope to have a picnic or carnival-type event.”
The OLA offers more than just fun events. It also provides Latino students with opportunities to become involved on campus and take on leadership roles concerned with promoting and managing a student organization. There are also chances for students to network with new people from a similar background.
“We are even on our way to get a scholarship for one of our members through The Latino Institute,” Mansfield said.
Lopez believes the OLA can go even further in providing Latin American students not only with fun cultural events and campus involvement, but with meaningful bonds that could potentially help families in devastated places such as Puerto Rico.
“Being a part of this organization makes me feel close to my Spanish background and reminds me I’m not alone,” Lopez said. “I want to be able to host an event to raise more money for Puerto Rico. It’s really important to me that they don’t feel forgotten.
“There are still so many people without electricity. I believe this organization can unite us all and we can all make a difference.”
OLA meetings are usually held Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. in the Kron Lounge of the Student Union Building. For more information, follow @olafdumetro on Twitter and Instagram or email firstname.lastname@example.org.