University of Arizona Hispanic Alumni Club celebrates 40th anniversary during Hispanic Heritage Month
The University of Arizona Hispanic Alumni Club, founded in 1982 to support the college-going dreams of Hispanic students across Arizona, will look back in order to move forward, observing its 40th anniversary during a celebration later this month.
The event, happening Sept. 23 at Casino Del Sol Resort, is part of the campuswide recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs Sept. 15-Oct. 15. It also will serve as an opportunity to remember the late Anna Marie Chalk, a longtime advocate for UAHA scholars.
UAHA provides scholarships and retention programming for more than 100 University students each semester. Since 2011, UAHA has awarded 1,085 scholarships worth more than $3.4 million, supporting both undergraduate and graduate students — specifically, those who intend to give back to Tucson and Arizona's Hispanic communities.
Two former scholarship recipients – Celina Urquidez and Letty Molina-Gutierrez – are current University employees and co-chairs of the 40th anniversary celebration planning committee. Urquidez is an education coordinator in the Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities and Molina-Gutierrez is a senior academic adviser in the College of Education.
"They don't just give you the money and send you on your way to deal with navigating school on your own," Urquidez said. "When I was involved in the scholarship program, they really took care of me and mentored me in a way that I would not have had access to otherwise."
The club grew out of a group called Los Universitarios, which was founded in 1955 by John Huerta. Los Universitarios was intended to ease the passage of Hispanic students through the halls of the University.
UAHA has carried forward and expanded upon that legacy, its alumni becoming leaders both in Tucson and across the country. Those leaders include Marty Cortez, a UAHA co-founder and former president who served on the Pima Community College Board of Governors.
"The interest, of course, was, 'How are you going to expand your touch with the Hispanic community?'" Cortez recalled. "‘And how are you going to get involved to progress and participate among the Hispanic community members and work to fulfill that?'"
UAHA awarded its first scholarships in 1986 and launched its retention program in 1998. The retention program, a partnership among UAHA, the Department of Mexican American Studies and the Adalberto and Ana Guerrero Student Center, helps students develop skills in networking and public speaking, remaining mindful of heritage.
For Manny Felix, founder and chief executive officer of AZ Cyber Initiative, a nonprofit bringing awareness of cyber-related careers to young Arizonans, the club became almost like family.
"When you feel like someone believes in you and you're part of a community that is supportive, that will vouch for you, that will fight for you so you can have a better experience than they did — that's what the scholarship was like," he said.
Steven Harshman, a student in the College of Medicine – Tucson, echoed Felix's sentiments.
"It's alumni coming back and helping students go through college and have a good foundation to be successful throughout the four years," he said. "And it's people who have been in our situations coming back and giving money and time so that people with similar backgrounds can have an easier and more successful time moving through college."
Learn more about the anniversary celebration on the Arizona Alumni website.
Other events and celebrations planned for Hispanic Heritage Month are listed below.
- The University will honor its Hispanic community using a cultural logo, which will be featured on branded merchandise available at the BookStores and on the University's Amazon site. A portion of the sales from both sites will help benefit students through the Adalberto and Ana Guerrero Student Center.
- Arizona Athletics will share content through its Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts including interviews with Hispanic student-athletes and staff members and a story about two student-athletes who secured deals with a modeling agency to promote Hispanic Heritage Month merchandise.
- The University of Arizona Hispanic Alumni Club will host a tailgate at the Cole and Jeannie Davis Sports Center ahead of the Oct. 8 football game against Oregon. The game will also feature in-game performances from mariachi and folklorico performers. Find more information online.
- Arizona Arts Live will be host two events celebrating Latin culture, music and dance. Mariachi Herencia de Mexico with special guest Lupita Infante, happening Sept. 16 at Hotel Congress, will combine festive folk music and mariachi music in a celebration of Mexican culture. Cimafunk – El Alimento Tour on Sept. 28, also at Hotel Congress, will feature Afro-Cuban rock star Cimafunk performing with his nine-person band from Havana.
This is a version of a story written by Matt Morris with the University of Arizona Foundation. You can learn more about UAHA and its 40th anniversary on the foundation's website.