DeKALB – Parents and other family proudly applauded the inductees of the Adela de la Torre Honor Society on Sunday at its first induction ceremony.
More than 30 students took the oath at Altgeld Hall to become part of the first Latino honor society at Northern Illinois University. Honor society adviser Vanessa Segundo said the group will demonstrate the capabilities of Latinos to the greater community.
“It is a huge move for us on our end,” she said.
Emily Prieto, director of the university’s Latino Resource Center, said work began in summer to establish the honor society and select students to make up the executive board. To become part of the group, students must have a grade-point average of 3.0 or higher, possess leadership skills and show dedication to community service, Segundo said.
A focus of the honor society is family and community, or familia and comunidad, Segundo said. The group will offer the opportunity to develop awareness about the meaning of being Latino.
Students within Latino and black communities are often labeled “at risk,” Segundo said, so establishing a group that focuses on academic and community success can bolster self-confidence and promote excellence among Latinos.
Inductee Jason Montemayor, a sophomore political science student, said he was excited to become part of the honor society “because, really, we’re under-recognized. Like, we’re not really known here.”
The honor society will provide Latinos a chance to connect and succeed together, Montemayor said.
“It’s like making history here at NIU,” he said.
Inductee Jacky Pérez, a senior political science and Spanish major, said the honor society is key for Latino students in terms of academic growth and networking opportunities.
“It’s important for us to shine,” she said.
Pérez translated for her mother, María, who said she was proud of her daughter and “very happy that there’s growing opportunities like this for Hispanics.”
Prieto said it is fitting to name the honor society after her mentor, Adela de la Torre, a Mexican-American professor and department chairwoman of Chicano studies at the University of California-Davis.
Addressing the crowd in Spanish and English, de la Torre said not enough Latino students are prepared for college or graduate college, and they often have no cultural home while attending college.
She said the honor society provides important recognition of students and will offer critical tools for their success.
De la Torre also encouraged students to remember their core values and to give back to their families and communities.
“They will always support your trajectory,” she told inductees.
After students received framed certificates, they hugged family members and posed for photos. Some parents wiped away tears while their children were recognized.
Noemi Rodriguez, a member of the honor society’s executive board, said parents know their children are hardworking, but it brings special pride to see their efforts recognized.
“It’s something that the Latino familia really values,” she said.