SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 25, 2018) – USF Sarasota-Manatee is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and kicked off the annual observance this past weekend with a “Service Saturday” outreach effort at Lutheran Services of Florida.
For two hours Saturday, USFSM students visited the Sarasota-based nonprofit to meet with Spanish-speaking refugees and other immigrants to explain American customs. The students focused on U.S. holidays, including Halloween and Thanksgiving.
“I really like the idea of working with refugees and I believe in the work that Lutheran Services is doing to reach out to refugees and the immigrant population,” said Cassandra Benjamin, a 22-year-old senior.
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated yearly from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. While the campus has recognized the month previously, this was the first time students linked the celebration with Service Saturday, a campus outreach effort.
Benjamin said the idea stemmed from a recent meeting of USFSM’s Multicultural Affairs Committee. Members of Student Government and the Latin American Student Association (LASA) who attended the meeting discussed creating an impact beyond the month-long cultural celebration.
“This idea caught my attention because I work at the tutoring center and I like to help people and I thought this was a great way of helping the community and making a connection with English speakers and Spanish speakers,” said Omaylis Colon, president of LASA.
Isabelle Starner, a member of Student Government and the Office of Student Engagement, agreed.
“I thought it would be a really great way to connect with an important local organization like Lutheran Services of Florida and help teach refugees and immigrants about our national holidays,” she said.
About 20 students participated in the event, which ran from 10 a.m. to noon at Lutheran Services of Florida’s offices, 1748 Independence Blvd., Sarasota. Several immigrant families, including children, stopped by. The students used picture games in some cases to communicate with the immigrants.
“We definitely want to establish a relationship with Lutheran Services, and I hope that we have more events with them and LASA in the future,” said Benjamin, vice president of LASA. “We really want to connect with more refugees and help them and their families.”
Also on tap for Hispanic Heritage Month at USFSM is a Hispanic fair on Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. in the campus courtyard, a domino tournament Thursday from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Student Commons and a Hispanic luncheon on Oct. 4 from noon to 1:30 p.m.