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Oct. 27, 2014

Latino Awards highlights multicultural engagement

By Ashli Speed

Navigators Kiran Yellamardhi, Damyyan Eafford, Jacqueline Parkes and Glorja Llakmani at Latino LuncheonThe savory aroma of rice and beans, accompanied by the rhythmic sounds of percussion and wind instruments filled the air as people took their seats around tables with vibrant center pieces.

Each table was adorned with decorations to celebrate Latin culture. The cheerful conversations among guests effortlessly flowed between Spanish and English. Each corner of the room boosted an elaborate presentation of culture from four Latin countries. The four chosen for display were Mexico, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

The Student Center Ballroom was decorated with care to highlight the celebration of Latino History Month. The Latino community, with more than 100 guests from all over Cleveland State University, and other community leaders gathered on Thursday, Oct. 16 to take part in the 24th Annual Latino Heritage Awards Luncheon that was hosted by The Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement.

Cleveland State students and employees were among those who received awards. In all, four individuals were recognized for their contributions to the Latino community: Reverend Max Rodas, founder and executive director of Nueva Luz Urban Resource Center, Lucy Torres, Hispanic liaison of the City of Cleveland community relations board, Jamie Vega, Cleveland State graduate and current academic advisor with student support services in TRIO and Cleveland State junior Sarah Matos.

Roberto Chavez, coordinator of Multicultural Programs in the Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement, has been planning and attending the luncheons since 2006. Chavez views this luncheon as a way to help overcome misconceptions and stereotypes that keep people from different backgrounds from interacting with each other.

“It’s a learning experience for the whole community to learn more about other people that live in Cleveland,” Chavez said.

Peter Camba, a sophomore Organizational Leadership major and a Navigator in the Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement’s Mosaic House, was a student speaker at the luncheon.
Camba is a first generation college student whose parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico. In his speech, he shared his experiences growing up Latino and the importance of events like this.

“It’s important to celebrate that our people can do it," Camba said. "Even if we aren’t looked at as people that can succeed, we can, and I’m an example of that as a college student and a student leader."

Keynote speaker and award recipient Rodas spoke on the importance of diversity and inclusion. His organization, Nueva Luz, has a partnership with the Cleveland Marshall College of Law. Through law fellows and legal clinics, Nuevo Luz Urban Research Center provides resources to Latino students and the community.

“CSU is a significant community stake holder," Rodas said. "For Cleveland and the Latino community, most of our kids attend CSU. The proximity between CSU and the Latino community is critical."
The Latino luncheon is just one of the many ways the Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement serves the diverse student body at Cleveland State.

Students played a large role in the execution of the luncheon. The centerpieces and conversation boards that showcased the culture of four countries were created by Navigators in the Mosaic House.
On the 12th floor of Rhodes Tower, the Office of Multicultural Inclusion and Engagement boasts a dynamic space for student learning and the engagement of different cultures — Mosaic House. Home to the Navigators, Mosaic House provides the campus with many resources and cultural opportunities.
Mosaic House allows a diverse range of students to gather and connect through various activities and programs. The Mosaic House hosts regular Lunch and Learn Sessions — book readings and study sessions to name a few. For the most part, all of the programming that comes out of Mosaic House is fueled by the work of student Navigators.

Developed by Dr. Charleyse Pratt, assistant vice president of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement, Navigators help provide a wide range of resources and supportive services to students.
According to Pratt, the main objective of the Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement is to create an environment in the campus community that promotes and facilitates student success and also increases cultural awareness understanding and inclusion.

“Our students are so multicultural naturally that we need to help them be able to interact in a multicultural environment.” Pratt said.

In its first year, the Navigator program is proving to be successful — with more than 1000 in attendance to Lunch and Learn sessions last semester.

Navigators are students from all backgrounds and majors that have been trained to help other students overcome obstacles and find resources to help them achieve success at Cleveland State — doing so while learning about different cultures.

“They are always on duty and they are always navigating and making connections,” Dr. Pratt said.
According to Dr. Pratt, Navigators have been assigned to learn about different cultures and all the resources that Cleveland State has to offer in order to share this knowledge.

“Very often multicultural students are the underrepresented population — they are often the group of students that will suffer in silence, and are also sometimes fighting against a stereotype that may not be accurate,” Pratt said. “This office is here to prepare them to have the confidence to address those issues.”
Sulé Holder, coordinator of Multicultural Student Services, works out of the Mosaic House and helped to train the navigators over the summer.

One of Holder’s roles is to help the Navigators develop their Lunch and Learn Sessions, held regularly in the Mosaic House. Students are welcome at the Mosaic House for the sessions — topics range from GRE preparation to stress management and studying tips.

The Office of Multicultural Engagement hosts programs and activities all year long.

In November, it will host Boys to Men: A Summit for Men of Color. Programs will continue with one focus a month. Lunch and Learn Sessions will continue throughout the semester.

“We want to empower you,” Holder said. “When you come in contact with the Mosaic House and this office you don’t leave here the same way you came in.”