Thanks to an anonymous donation, El Centro Chicano was able to honor an outstanding student from the sophomore, junior and senior classes at its inaugural Chicano and Latino Community Scholar Convocation on Thursday afternoon in Memorial Church.
The newly established Chicano/Latino Scholar Prize for Academic Excellence awards $2,000 to each student in the Chicano/Latino community who finished the previous academic year with the highest GPA. This year’s recipients were Brandon Garcia ’15, Megan Mikhail ’14 and Anna Ponting ’13.
El Centro’s only undergraduate academic award until this year was a $5,000 prize to a graduating senior that has been awarded every spring for the past two years.
Paula Moya, associate professor of English, welcomed the gathering of students and faculty and introduced the convocation as a completion of Nuestra Graduación, the graduation ceremony that El Centro hosts for families at the end of the academic year.
Erica Fernández ’12 M.A. ’13, the convocation’s student speaker, and English professor Ramón Saldívar, the faculty speaker, reflected on the privilege of education.
“To be given this opportunity means a lot, especially because I never thought I could come to a place like Stanford. I mean, coming from a small town in Mexico it was unheard of,” Fernández said after the event. “It still hasn’t hit me. Even though I just graduated and now I’m back at grad school, it still hasn’t hit.”
Moya awarded the prizes before asking attendees to recognize the academic achievements of various groups within the Chicano/Latino community, such as those completing honors theses and the work of El Centro’s graduate scholars-in-residence, students chosen on the basis of their academic performance and commitment to the Chicano/Latino community.
“It makes you feel part of something bigger than your academic program, when you feel that kind of a sense of obligation to a community,” said Diego Roman M.S. ’12 M.A. ’12 Ph.D.’14, a graduate scholar-in-residence.
After the convocation, attendees picked up a dahlia on their way to a reception where a spread of empanadas, ceviche and other dishes were shared.
“Giving the dahlias to the students meant a lot because my grandmother had dahlias in her garden in Mexico,” Fernández said. “This symbolic little thing really took me back to where I come from … If you know where you come from, you know where you are heading.”
El Centro Chicano director Frances Morales expressed pride and pleasure about how the community came together for the event.
“A lot of times we invite faculty to speak, but we don’t often see them sitting like right now, enjoying a meal together with the students,” she said. “It’s very special to be able to bring the faculty into an event like this.”
About 40 students and faculty attended the ceremony, but Morales predicts the event will grow in the future.
“We could have seen a few more, but we know that everything begins small … I know that this program will grow,” Morales said.
El Centro Chicano awarded academic prizes with no strings attached, not scholarships as was previously reported. The Daily regrets the error.