By Jordan Unger
The Youngstown State University Hispanic Heritage Committee and Office of Student Diversity Programs co-sponsored the ceremony. Students and faculty from YSU, surrounding high schools and members of the community attended.
The ceremony opened with volunteers carrying 22 flags to the front of the room, each representing a different Hispanic country. YSU President Jim Tressel, who spoke out at the event, said it gave him chills to watch the flags go down the aisle.
“It reminds you of the extraordinary country we have,” Tressel said. “People have come from many different directions. We’re excited about our campus, because we have students from all over the world who bring different cultures, different ideologies, different discussions, and it’s so much fun to be a part of these.”
According to Tressel, there are 350 Hispanic students enrolled at YSU, 98 of which began this semester.
“They add so much to our university community,” Tressel said.
John McNally, mayor of Youngstown, also gave remarks at the event. McNally said the Hispanic community represents the spirit of the nation.
“Hispanic members of our community shape our communities,” McNally said. “They help expand our country, not only from the laboratories of Youngstown State University, [but also] to the business community, to the board rooms and the classrooms of the country.”
The Youngstown community should recognize the contributions that Hispanic heritage has on the Mahoning Valley, McNally said.
“As we celebrate all of these hard-fought achievements, we must also remember that there’s more work to be done to widen certain opportunity for all of us, especially those in the Hispanic community,” McNally said.
The keynote speaker at the opening ceremony was Fran Wilson, a YSU alumna and Girard Board of Appeals member. Wilson said her father encouraged her to be successful, and it is something she continues to pass on to others.
“My granddaughter Samantha’s here, and she told me she was applying for a higher position in her job,” Wilson said. “She said last week, ‘Granny, I’m not sure if I can do this,’ and I said to her, ‘There isn’t anything you can’t do if you [learn]. Go out, work hard, you’re Mexican.’”
Wilson extended her advice to all YSU students.
“If you want to do something, you can do it,” Wilson said. “You just have to have the will.”
Kevin Stillwell, a YSU student who attended the event, was inspired by the ceremony.
“I was unfamiliar with a lot of things, and coming here today opened up so much,” Stillwell said. “The sky’s the limit.”
Hispanic Heritage Month runs from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15. The YSU Hispanic Heritage Committee and Office of Student Diversity Programs are co-sponsoring events throughout the month, including the Hispanic Heritage Celebration in Kilcawley Center on Oct. 8.
William Blake, the YSU director of the Office of Student Diversity Programs, encouraged attendees at the ceremony to engage in Hispanic Heritage Month activities on campus.
“We welcome all of your input and desire very much you be part of what we’re doing at Youngstown State University as we continue to make this community one of the strongest and most powerful in the state of Ohio,” Blake said.
Stillwell said he plans to attend more of the events Hispanic Heritage Month has to offer.
“Now that I know, my eyes are going to be open, my ears are going to be open and I’m going to be looking forward to it,” Stillwell said.
YSU students can become involved in Hispanic Heritage Month activities by contacting the Office of Student Diversity Programs in Kilcawley Center.