The Hispanic Student Association at the University of Florida exists to serve Hispanic Latinx and interested non-Hispanic students by providing a way to connect and learn more about Latinx culture. The organization includes a branch known as the Office of Political Affairs, which exists to provide space for students to discuss issues that matter to the Latinx community such as immigration, citizenship, and how students are represented in society and the media. In addition, the Member Leadership Program of HSA was started five years ago and exists to teach students programming, marketing, financing and professionalism. MLP admits classes in the fall and spring of every year and breaks students up into committees to teach them various skills and all about leadership in HSA.
As a diverse organization designed to celebrate the many cultures of the Hispanic-Latino people, HSA is parent to 13 additional multicultural and professional organizations. Many of these organizations cater to a specific nationality or trade, but the goal of each is the same: to help students find ways to connect to culture on campus.
HSA holds a range of events each year. The Latinx Assembly is a large kick-off event that focuses on welcoming first-year students who are interested in or identify with the Latinx community. Other events include galas, community service events and professional development opportunities. A special event to look for in the spring is the Latin American Summit, which is a day of panels focusing on issues affecting the Latinx community.
HSA is led by President Isabella Oliver, a fourth-year international studies student, who got involved after spending her freshman year as a member of the Venezuelan Student Association. “I’ve been able to learn a lot about different cultures and just different perspectives throughout the community,” Oliver said. She is grateful to her peers in HSA for “tap[ping]into my potential for me to be able to grow” when they encouraged her to step into the presidency and said that in HSA she has found ”amazing people who are so engaged, so passionate and really make you care that much more about what the community’s doing.” Through her involvement, Isabella has learned about the diversity of people even within the Latinx community. “[It is] beneficial for everybody to get out of their comfort zone or bubble to be able to understand the struggles of different people in the identities they find,” she said.
One of the biggest events for HSA each year is Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM). This annual month-long celebration features 20 events directed by its own leadership team of 75 individuals, headed by Marketing student and HHM President Sabrina Gonzalez. This year’s exciting slate of events included the Forum, Art Fest, Fiesta, and the Health & Legal Fair. “[HHM really brings students together and allows them to grow professionally by developing many transferable skills,” said Sabrina. She has personally found her best friends and home on this campus through her experiences with the organization and says she is thankful for the opportunity to lead and to “give back to my community, to mentor those and hopefully inspire a passion for the next leaders.” With Latinx students making up 15% of UF’s campus population, events and organizations like HHM and HSA play an important role in helping UF students find a home within the larger university. As UF continues to grow, we are eager to keep developing programs that will value and welcome our Latinx students; we are especially looking forward to the re-opening of La Casita, UF’s Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures, in November! Click here to read more.