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More Like Home: Celebrating Latinx Heritage

More Like Home: Celebrating Latinx Heritage

The mission of Berea College has eight parts, known as the Great Commitments. And while that may sound complicated, it boils down to one simple, Biblical concept: the notion of impartial love. In the mission’s origin, the founder of Berea College, the Reverend John G. Fee, was fighting against the institution of slavery. The profound inclusivity of Fee’s message was revolutionary for the 1850s, even though its truth is eternal. Because of that eternal truth, impartial love is still our mission today. As we celebrate Latinx Heritage Month, known nationally as Hispanic Heritage Month, we would do well as a society—as leaders, politicians and citizens—to follow Fee’s example.

Impartial love is a big, open-arms mission that challenges us to live up to our higher ideals. As the population of Berea students who identified as Latinx or Hispanic grew, we understood that our welcome table needed to get bigger. With that in mind, in 2019, we established the Espacio Cultural Latinx (ECL) to provide students with programming and engagement activities that celebrate Latin culture at Berea. While the focus is on supporting the Latinx student population, ECL programming is structured to welcome students from all backgrounds to participate. The goal, as always, is to learn from one another and discover our common humanity.

We also hired our first tenure-track professor in Latinx studies, Dr. Gwendolyn Ferreti, who cofounded the ECL. The following year, we hired the first, full-time Latinx Student Support Coordinator, Juan Jaimes Costilla. Together, Ferreti and Costilla have developed programming that welcomes all students while creating a welcoming atmosphere for our Latinx students. They are also working to develop more Latinx Studies courses and programming, and they will continue to support and mentor Latinx students in the years to come. We believe that Latinx studies and resources will become a lasting part of the College’s rich history of interracial coeducation and will add to the College’s investment in equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Latinx students have also taken on tremendous campus leadership through the Hispanic Outreach Program (HOP) which serves the broader Latinx community in Madison County as well as through groups such as the Latinx Student Union (LSU) which advocates for students and organizes events. The fall semester began with a welcome back reception featuring Latin music and providing an opportunity for returning students to meet the incoming class.

Jean-Paul '24, a Latinx student from Louisville, who is on the men’s soccer and track teams, said, "I didn't expect to have such a close community at Berea. It feels like home. As an athlete, the support that my Latinx community shows is heartwarming and very appreciated.”

Jean-Paul’s feeling of being fully at home here is our goal for every Berea student. The power of impartial love has shaped the Berea experience since 1855 and has made a remarkable community possible, providing a model for all the other communities that together make up American society. As we celebrate Latinx Heritage Month, let’s also strive to make all places and spaces feel more like home to everyone.

Latinx students pose at the ECL's Welcome Back Reception
Food served at the Latinx Heritage Month Kickoff Event
Latinx Graduate Recognition Ceremony