Student Spotlight for National Hispanic Heritage Month: Latinos Unidos
Latinos Unidos emerged amid the COVID-19 pandemic during the 2021-22 school year as its founder and President Citlali Chambers saw the need for a club to empower Latino students at Alexandria City High School (ACHS). Now an ACHS senior, Chambers says a platform was needed for Latino students to speak up about issues that matter to them. “Our club also serves as a safe space for students with similar backgrounds and cultural experiences,” Chambers added.
Latino culture is beautiful and resilient and should never be taken for granted, explains Chambers, and Latinos Unidos helps to ensure that it gets the respect and recognition it deserves. As an example, she says the club has been instrumental in organizing various events for National Hispanic Heritage Month to showcase the beauty of Latino culture for the Alexandria community to appreciate, not just for a month, but all year long. Chambers also believes that Latino cultural values of being hard-working and respectful enrich the overall experience for students in ACHS, whether it be in STEM, athletics or the performing arts. She feels that being bilingual and having multicultural experiences can make people more appreciative of other cultures and help form better connections to them.
Latinos Unidos Faculty Sponsor Leslie Auceda shared that when she attended Mount Vernon Community School in the 1990s, speaking Spanish in class was not allowed. “Now, bilingualism is a core value,” says Auceda. She added that it is important for students of immigrants to learn in Spanish as some families may discourage their children from speaking Spanish in order to assimilate and avoid the racism they themselves experienced.
Chambers sees the value of taking pride in being bilingual, quoting Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa and anti-apartheid activist who said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”. Relating her own experience when working in customer service, Chambers acknowledged her delight when a customer’s face would light up when they found out she could speak Spanish. As she put it, “this deeper connection that comes with speaking to a person in their first language is definitely the best benefit of being bilingual.”
Latinos Unidos, which meets after school, welcomes all students. Chambers adds that the club has some non-Latino members who have joined because they want to support the Latino community at ACHS and learn more about this vibrant culture.
- National Hispanic Heritage Month