HUG wins awards at Latinx student conference


Hispanos Unidos de Guilford leaders attended the 2019 Southeastern LatinX Student Leadership Conference April 12-14 at Western Carolina University, where the club was honored with two awards.//Photo Courtesy Hispanos Unidos de Guilford

As Guilford’s 2018-19 school year was coming to end, Hispanos Unidos de Guilford  (HUG) members were celebrating two awards the club received at the 2019 Southeastern LatinX Student Leadership Conference (SL-SLC), held April 12-14 at Western Carolina University (WCU) in Cullowhee, North Carolina.

HUG was honored with awards for Outstanding Commitment to Service and Organization of the Year at the annual conference, presented by the WCU Latino Appreciation Student Organization. The SL-SLC is a weekend-long event with keynote speakers, workshops, an advisor track, and even a student celebration night. However, the conference’s main event is an awards banquet, where the Southeastern Latinx Student Leadership Inaugural Conference Committee distributes awards to faculty, staff, students, organizations and programs that have demonstrated varied forms of excellence.

“I’ve been in HUG since my first year at Guilford and going to this conference as a Latina woman was very empowering,” said junior Berenice Fuentes-Juarez, the club’s secretary. “To see so many Latinx students and allies, especially when thinking about our current political context, seeing other members of different universities and being able to collaborate our ideas was just very empowering. One of my favorite workshops was about the imposter syndrome in graduate school, and it was led by a Latinx student that spoke about the barriers he’s faced as a Latino student,” Fuentes-Juarez said.  “It was very inspiring to learn that we can get to that level as minority students.”

The two awards HUG received recognized the group’s contributions to the Guilford community and student body through service and events, and HUG’s commitment to service.  “I had a great experience,” said sophomore Hsar Wei, a HUG member who also attended SL-SLC. “There was a lot of learning for me, particularly because I’m not Hispanic, and I especially liked the workshop that taught me how to be an ally for my undocumented friends. They also had workshops on community-building and mentoring that I enjoyed, but it was also pretty similar to what we do in Bonner.”

This was the first year HUG was honored with awards from SL-SLC, Wei added. “Our mission includes social justice and community service, so being involved in Latinx impact and our members volunteering at many of the sites involved with SL-SLC contributed to our winning the awards. These awards reflect our mission and what we do, seeing as we are a club for not only the students but the community as well. We put a lot of effort into what we do, and although we don’t need an award to validate our work, it still feels good.”

Although the focus of the SL-SLC is Latinx students, the conference is open to students of any racial background who would like to learn more about the Latinx community, gain leadership skills and explore options for graduate school. The goal of the conference is to empower students of the Latinx community to claim their universities as a part of their experience and create a sense of belonging.

“I joined HUG because it was my safe place. It was where I was welcomed without being judged, and it was somewhere I could be myself,” said junior Librado Mendoza Sosa, HUG’s vice president.

“I was able to connect with a lot of students that were also involved with the struggles of reaching higher education. HUG became my second family, so I got involved more through leadership positions in order to help others. I was very pleased to hear that other schools and Latinx communities are recognizing the work that HUG does,” he said.