By Brittany Tate
Did you know that as of 2014, Hispanics constituted 17% of the nation's total population and is expected to grow to almost 30% by 2060? This makes people of Hispanic origin the largest ethnic or race minority in the United States and will equate to over 119 million people in 2060 as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.
These are just a few bite-sized tidbits that will be discussed during Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM), which officially began on September 15 and ends October 15. Enacted into law in 1988 — 20 years after it was first observed in 1968 under the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration — the month-long observance is a celebration of America's Hispanic community and its role in shaping our national character.
But for many Hispanic Americans, it's also a commemoration to the anniversary of independence for the Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
On CCGA's campus, the observance is a great way to celebrate diversity and promote positivity.
"I think it's important to celebrate these thematic months throughout the year because it gives students the opportunity to share their culture with their peers and it introduces students to cultures different from their own," said Brittany Garcia, Coordinator of Student Engagement and Intercultural Programs in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Opening with a Fiesta Latina on Monday, complete with piñatas and churros, the month-long observance will include Spanish Bingo, a Zumba dance night and an educational forum about the unique Latino cultures represented at CCGA at both the Brunswick campus and the Camden Center in Kingsland.
With this year's planning process geared more toward a student approach, Garcia hopes the campus community will engage, educate and celebrate the diverse community that CCGA has to offer.
"I have used this past year to get to know the campus community and meet students of all backgrounds and since creating those relationships, we have worked with several students to create more elaborate months to reflect the cultures and students that are represented on campus," Garcia said.
"We have big ideas for the fall and upcoming spring but the excitement comes from the students. They want to share their culture and their traditions, so the support is amazing."
Students, who want to enhance their classroom studies and gain tangible benefits, may have an opportunity to do so off of the CCGA campus.
Tyler Bagwell, Assistant Professor of Communication, is developing a summer study abroad program to Cuba in May 2017, offering a select group of students the opportunity to experience Cuban history and culture in a country undergoing profound change.
"The Cuba program will offer students a unique opportunity to study and experience the culture of Cuba. It will promote student development through observations, interactions and analysis of critical educational issues through immersion in the Cuban society," Bagwell said.
"Students will explore historic sites and a variety of Cuban ecosystems, including tropical rainforests and the Caribbean coast."
Additionally, a faculty-led study opportunity in Belize is also being considered. The Central American country is known for its complex ecosystems — sea grass beds, mangroves and coral reefs — and over 600 ancient Mayan archaeological sites.
Opportunities as such provide immeasurable international experience for students as well as transcend traditional classroom study.
"Study abroad offers students a great educational value to broaden their global view, increase their confidence and adaptability, and gain a competitive edge in the job market," said Dr. James (Jim) Lynch, Interim Director of International Education and Director of Institutional Effectiveness.
"According to the American Institute for Foreign Study, 84% of study abroad alumni felt their study abroad experiences helped them obtain the needed skills to land that first job after graduation. So, celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by learning more about these exciting short-term study abroad opportunities in Latin America."
No matter the event or occasion, Garcia hopes that when a student leaves an event or visits the interactive tables in the lobby, they walk away with an awareness of their community and their peers.
"It's important for them to recognize that the world is larger than the CCGA campus, and a great way for them to learn about the world is through their peers," she said.
If you want to learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month or other programs planned for the month, visit the Office of Diversity and Inclusion or contact Brittany Garcia at email@example.com.
Details on the Latin American study abroad destinations will be forthcoming, so please check regularly for updates on the CCGA study abroad website at www.ccga.edu/studyaway.