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Hispanic growth at area colleges, universities

Newswatch 16's Courtney Harrison spoke with students and faculty from two of those schools about the events and the growing Hispanic student population.

LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — Over the past month, some colleges and Universities in Lackawanna County held events in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Hispanic Heritage trivia was one of many events held on the campus of Penn State Scranton to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.

Members of the Student Organization of Latinos coordinated the event to educate students about Hispanic culture.

"We know that, like, me and Enrique share different cultures and different things. We might share something similar but not completely, so that's probably one of the things that I feel like has to be out there," Deymeliz Desarden said.

Desarden is one of the founding members of the club that began in 2019. She says the club has had significant growth in its membership since then because the number of Hispanic and Latino students has increased.

"To feel welcome and enjoy and they belong. Because the idea for the club was that people felt like they belong," Desarden said.

"It makes me happy that this campus is as being more diverse. That's what our main goal is to be more diverse and inclusive in our campus," Enrique Olmedo said.

At the University of Scranton, interim provost Michelle Maldonado says 16 percent of this year's incoming class is Hispanic or Latino.

"These Hispanic students are a significant part of our community. And along with their presence comes their culture, their identity, and this really is a month where we celebrate that," Maldonado said.

Students are also in the process of forming a Latinx club on campus. Maldonado says it was important for the university to host events focusing on Hispanic heritage and culture.

The University of Scranton is also making changes to its curriculum to expand on Hispanic heritage.

"We offer a concentration and a focus on Latinx studies, looking at Hispanic populations, their history, their culture, and their literature."

A Cuban American herself, Maldonado says being Hispanic or Latino is something students can be proud of. She's thankful that non-Hispanic students can learn about a different culture.

"We want to celebrate who we are and educate the broader community about who we are and show that this isn't an either/or, but that when we celebrate Hispanic culture, we're celebrating the United States."

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