By Esmeralda Trevino, Staff Writer
During my freshman year at Sewanee, I had the honor of staying on campus for grad week and to watch many incredible individuals graduate and take the next step of their lives. I was also able to witness the first Spanish speaking commencement take place. As a native Spanish speaker and Latinx woman, I was overwhelmed by the resilience and strength of those seniors at the time.
The commencement was made possible through the strength and efforts of Nora Viñas (C’17), who noticed that there were not enough resources for Latinx students on Sewanee’s campus. One of the main goals for Nora was to host Sewanee’s first Spanish-speaking commencement.
As someone who came from a school with both English and Spanish info sessions and graduations, it didn’t occur to me that Nora’s idea would be just as important on Sewanee’s campus.
The first Spanish-speaking commencement took place on May 13, 2017 in Convocation Hall. Students walked in with their families and were honored at the center of the room. The majority of the commencement was conducted in Spanish. Underclassmen, faculty and staff all joined together to celebrate the Latinx seniors from the class of 2017.
Family members had the opportunity to express their love and support while each senior had a moment to share their thoughts on those who helped them throughout their Sewanee journey. It was an emotional ceremony because of the lack of the language barrier. Families had the freedom to express their gratitude in Spanish. Spanish is such a beautiful and expressive language that I appreciated it more than words could ever say.
According to Professor Manuel Chinchilla, “Last year’s ceremony was great because students could express gratitude to their parents in a personal way. It was also touching to hear parents express admiration for the achievement of their sons and daughters, especially in cases involving long struggles with migration, economic hardship, and perseverance in accessing higher education.
Chinchilla continued, “This year ADELANTE members have included me in their preparations for the ceremony. It has been inspiring to see so many of them take responsibility so that soon-to-be graduates can wrap up their studies without the stress of organizing their own graduation ceremony.”
We have put lot of effort into organizing this year’s celebration and we think it will be one to remember. But it has also just been a lot of fun to work together, switching freely from English to Spanish, taking our job seriously but also joking around a bit, and most importantly getting the chance to pick our favorite Latin food for the party,” said Chinchilla.
This year’s Latinx commencement will take place in Convocation Hall on May 12 from 3-5 p.m. We hope you will join us in witnessing our second Spanish-speaking commencement and in congratulating the next group of Latinx seniors.