ORLANDO, Fla. – The University of Central Florida is one of three Florida universities with the highest number of Hispanic and Latino students.
In 2017, UCF’s Latino and Hispanic student body exceeded 25%--a rising number that granted them the Hispanic Serving Institution designation.
“Currently we serve almost 20,000 Latino students at the undergraduate level, the graduate level and our medical school,” said Cyndia Morales Muñiz, the director of the Hispanic Serving Institution culture and partnerships department at UCF. “We were very excited last year when UCF was designated a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education.”
An HSI designation provides universities with federal grants by the U.S. Department of Education so they can expand educational opportunities and help Hispanic students fulfill their academic goals.
“We’re culturally responsive, that’s the goal, right? With everything that we do is how do we meet our students where they are? How do we serve their particular needs?” Morales Muñiz said.
The significant growth of UCF’s Latino and Hispanic student body led the school to implement culturally responsive practices. For instance, the creation of the Hispanic American Student Association, a Latin American studies major, a Latino caucus and Knightly Latino -- a Spanish language newscast.
“It shows how driven we are and how much of an impact we want to make not just in our communities but across the state of Florida,” Sabrina La Rosa, president of UCF’s student government said.
La Rosa and her peer, Stephanie Blanco, made history after becoming UCF’s first Latinas elected as president and vice president of their student government.
“It is absolutely the most heartwarming feeling to be the first Latina ticket and the first Hispanic female president of UCF,” La Rosa, who is Cuban-American, said.
A prideful time for Blanco, who was born to Honduran immigrants.
“My mother has been the one who has taught me all my values and one of the values is education and she has been just a great role model to me throughout my entire life. I really just do everything for her,” Blanco said.
For La Rosa, it was her grandmother’s advice that has given her the motivation to further her education.
“My grandmother always talks about her college education and having to leave Cuba and the advice she’s always given my cousins and I and our entire family is to make the most out of your college experience,” La Rosa said.
This fall, UCF also launched a new LatinX leadership course. As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s not just a time to celebrate diverse cultures and traditions, but to reflect on the power of Latinos.
“Latinos have contributed to the foundation of the United States in so many different ways,” Morales Muñiz said. “In every aspect, in every industry Latinos are contributing. We are not afraid to work hard and to do the best that we can.”
For La Rosa, it’s time to empower the community through education.
“It’s something that deserves to be celebrated and not just the Hispanic and LatinX culture as a whole but more importantly each individual culture. Take the time to learn about each other’s differences and strengthen that,” La Rosa said.
To see what other resources UCF offers to its student body and how it’s using its HSI status to better the campus community, click here.