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UHV group celebrates Latino life and culture

A new employee organization at the University of Houston-Victoria is off to a strong start with a successful first year and more activities and fun in store for 2022.

Since starting in 2020, the UHV Latino Faculty & Staff Association has grown its membership, held gatherings online for members to connect, collected donations for a Victoria early childhood center, and held an in-person holiday social. The group also elected officers in September for the 2021-2022 academic year.

Karla DeCuir

“There has been a lot of support and excitement for LFSA because it is the first time UHV has an association focused specifically on Latin cultures with the goal of helping our Hispanic students succeed,” said Karla DeCuir, who was elected president and is senior director of enrollment management and external affairs for UHV Katy.

Erika Vermillion, senior administrative assistant of student affairs, was elected vice president; and Abran Rodriguez, an assistant professor of professional counseling, was elected secretary.

The leaders are taking the group in an exciting new direction, said Jose Cantu, vice president for enrollment management at UHV and co-founder of the association.

Jose Cantu

“Dr. DeCuir is phenomenal and is really going to expand this group with her leadership,” Cantu said. “She is very inclusive and is a tremendous asset for this organization.”

LFSA has an especially important role at UHV, given that the university became designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution in 2013, he and DeCuir said.

“As a Hispanic-Serving Institution, it is very important that we have a group that identifies the needs of those students and how UHV can support them,” DeCuir said.

Along with their central mission to support Hispanic students, help Latinos connect, and educate the community about Hispanic culture, members have made time to help local children in need. In recent weeks, LFSA carried out its first donation drive, which benefited the Children’s Learning Institute Early Education Center at F.W. Gross Elementary School in Victoria. The program provides early education to young children of low-income families. LFSA members collected clothing essentials, sanitary products and more than 100 Christmas gifts for the children.

“Giving back to the community is a small token the university can offer, and being able to plant a seed with an early learning institution will hopefully pay off in the long run so the children know that the university is here to serve their future educational needs,” Vermillion said.

Erika Vermillion

LFSA also held its first annual holiday event on Dec. 7 at UHV University Commons to celebrate with food from various Latin America countries. Spanish music played as about 50 people gathered to share traditional food dishes from their cultures of origin at the LFSA Food and Flair Pachanga. Countries represented included Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras and Panama, and dishes ranged from tamales and Brazilian feijoada to tres leches cake.

“It was great to see everyone back at an event and also to meet some of our LFSA members and supporters,” DeCuir said.

LFSA leaders have more fun and excitement planned for next year, including a series of quarterly speakers offering insight into Hispanic students, and a chili cook-off slated for April to raise scholarship funds for UHV students, DeCuir said.

All of these events support the LFSA mission, Cantu said, adding, “Our main goal is to celebrate who we are and bring others to that celebration.”

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.