It’s Hispanic Heritage Week and JMU has been celebrating with numerous events such as movies, discussions, and fun social events. No one is busier than the President of Latino Student Alliance, Laura Quintero! Laura is a junior SMAD and Spanish major and is involved in numerous activities on campus.
This beautiful Latina woman is of Venezuelan heritage and has a huge passion for dance and photography. Laura took a few moments out of her week to talk to Her Campus JMU about what Latino Student Alliance (LSA) is doing this week and the rest of the semester.
Her Campus JMU: Tell us more about LSA and its purpose..
Laura: The Latino Student Alliance was started in 1995 to provide Latino students with a way to network with others who share a similar cultural background, as well as create a forum for all students interested in learning about Latin American cultures. We are a social organization committed to community service and creating cultural and social awareness. We embrace diversity through unity in our never-ending passion for cultural understanding on the JMU campus and in the Harrisonburg area.
HC JMU: What made you want to become president of LSA at JMU?
Laura: Having served on the executive board for a year as Secretary, I played an important role in all of the exciting things LSA was able to do in one year. Also, being close friends with the president at the time, Tatiana Cornejo, really helped me to see the work that goes into leading a group like LSA and all the benefits that come out of it. It’s the perfect way to actively express my passion and love for my heritage and share the joy of being Latina with everyone that I encounter!
HC JMU: What is your favorite aspect of the club?
Laura: How can I choose just one!? One of my favorite aspects of the club is the friendships I’ve made through it. The members of LSA are like my family, my home away from home. We can all share our diverse culture with each other, and I’ve learned so much about myself through them. I also adore Grupo Candela, the Latin dance performance group I started three years ago with some very close friends of mine. Dance has always been my passion, and being able to work with and perform with people who love to dance as much as I do has been an incredible experience. As a group, Candela has taught classes as well, something that I enjoy greatly.
Helping the community is definitely one of the best parts, too. There is so much to be done to support Latinos in the area, and we do whatever we can. Through our annual Celebración Latina Scholarship, we help a Latino student of the Harrisonburg/Rockingham county area attend JMU. In April 2012, we gave almost $1,400 to a student to attend JMU as the first person in her family to pursue a college education. That’s something I will never forget and always be proud of!
HC JMU: How big of an impact does the Latino community have in Harrisonburg and at JMU?
Laura: LSA does a lot of community service work in the area through La Casita and the Boys and Girls club, through the middle, elementary, and high schools of the area, and through other groups of Latinos in the local community. We also volunteer at various events on campus, including the Big Event, where we join other student organizations and volunteers in helping the Harrisonburg community.
HC JMU: What event is the LSA planning for this year?
Laura: Right now we’re proudly celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with various events, both on and off campus. In the spring we will be planning our main event of the year, Celebración Latina, a semi-formal banquet with food, performances, and an open dance floor where we raise money for our Celebración Latina scholarship. It’s a party you won’t want to miss!
HC JMU: What activities or organizations do you participate in besides LSA?
Laura: Besides being LSA President, I’m also Secretary of the JMU Bhangra Club. Bhangra is a folk dance of the Punjab region of India. It’s a very high-speed, high-intensity dance with beautiful costumes and a lot of cultural significance! Besides being something incredible to watch (and even more fun to dance) it’s a really good work out! I also enjoy photography in my spare time. I even have my own Facebook page, Sunshine Photography, where I post everything.
HC JMU: Do you have any unique experiences this summer that shaped the way you preside over LSA?
Laura: I traveled to Ireland this summer with the SMAD program, and I learned a lot while I was over there! Being with a large group of students of such diverse life experiences, and seeing us learning and growing together as a group in a completely new environment, was an incredible experience. Being immersed into a new culture really made me aware of how different people are depending on their background. Yet we are so similar at the same time. This realization has made me more aware of cultural similarities while allowing me to more greatly understand and appreciate all of our distinct cultural differences.