‘I am Proud to Be’ honors student diversity during Hispanic Heritage Month

Melissa Perez, junior nursing major, writes “Proud to be Dominican” in chalk on Risman Plaza during SALSA’s “Proud to be_____” chalking event on Monday, Sept. 18, 2017.

Eden Kraus

“I am Proud to Be,” an event held by the Spanish and Latino Student Association (SALSA) Monday on Risman Plaza, encouraged students to celebrate their differences and individuality.

The event is a part of Hispanic Heritage Month with various celebrations put on by SALSA, Latino Network Caucus (LNC), Center for Student Involvement (CSI), Latin Social Dance Club (LSDC), Sister Circle and the Male Empowerment Network (MEN).  

SALSA members invited students to write what they were proud of being in chalk on the ground. Responses varied from references to religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and personal traits.

Responses included “I am proud to be Muslim,” “I am proud to be an animal lover” and “I am proud to be pansexual.”

Aylin Chagolla, a sophomore speech pathology and audiology major and vice president of SALSA, said the event was created to embrace all diversity. Chagolla devised the idea behind “I am Proud to be.”

“SALSA is an inclusive organization, so I thought it would be a great way to show that we’re open to anybody who wants to join,” Chagolla said.

“Identity is such a big topic, especially in Hispanic and Latino culture,” she said. “My parents are immigrants from Mexico, and I feel that identity and how you perceive yourself this month are very important.”

Students of any background were encouraged to write who they’re proud to be.

Chance Zurub, a senior international relations major, wrote “I am proud to be black and Palestinian.”

“I’m really proud to represent my mom and my dad,” Zurub said. “My dad came all the way from Palestine, and my mom has been in Cleveland her whole life, but she has always instilled in me to be proud of what I am and my heritage. I take both (backgrounds), pretty equally and I stand up for Palestinian rights and black solidarity. I think they both constitute who I am.”

Mandeep Singh, a freshman biotechnology major, said he stopped because he saw what looked like a fun way to express himself.

“I wrote ‘I am proud to be a Sikh,’”Sangh said. “I am a Sikh, because I belong to a religion. I follow that practice and I follow that faith, and I am proud about it.” 

“It means that I am different. I was born different. I was raised different. I have a different faith than other people and I like it,” he said.

Risman Plaza was full of students coming and going, writing what was important to them regarding their personal identities. The event ended with the pavement covered in a colorful collection of words and phrases representative of Kent State’s diverse student population.

Hispanic Heritage Month events last until Oct. 13. A full schedule of all the events can be found on the Office of Global Education’s website.

Eden Kraus is the international students and issues reporter. Contact her at [email protected].