Port Arthur LNG is proud to partner with Lamar State College Port Arthur, the only Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) in Southeast Texas. As part of our partnership with the college, Port Arthur LNG financially supports a variety of campus initiatives including funding essential equipment and materials for STEM classrooms and enabling students access to the latest resources for their education. Additionally, we are proud to contribute to scholarships that directly benefit students who choose a science, technology, engineering or math major, empowering them to pursue their academic aspirations through the college’s Port Arthur Higher Education Foundation.
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated from September 15 through October 15, we celebrate Lamar State College Port Arthur’s rich cultural contributions and vibrant history of Hispanic and Latinx communities in the United States. Read below as Trenida Lewis, the director of the Excelencia Center at Lamar State College Port Arthur, provides valuable insight into the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month and the college’s unwavering dedication to promoting diversity and inclusion throughout the year.
Tell us about the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month and why it is important to celebrate at Lamar State College Port Arthur?
Lamar State College Port Arthur proudly holds the distinction of being the only college campus in Southeast Texas designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. In recent years, the Hispanic population in Jefferson County has experienced a significant growth, with a notable increase of 37.3% in population between 2010 and 2020. Consequently, it is of the utmost importance for us to acknowledge, celebrate, and prominently feature our Hispanic students and the broader community.
What does the HSI designation mean to Lamar State College Port Arthur, and how does it impact the campus community?
Our designation as an HSI signifies our commitment to serving underrepresented students, particularly those from Hispanic or Latinx backgrounds. This federal designation is earned when an institution meets two essential conditions – having at least 25% Hispanic student enrollment and a substantial number of low-income students. Lamar State College Port Arthur satisfies both criteria, allowing it to enhance student support services, broaden access to higher education, and cater to the specific needs of Hispanic students. This designation is a benefit to our entire community by fostering a more inclusive educational environment.
Can you share some examples of the initiatives or programs that Lamar State College Port Arthur has in place to support Hispanic students and promote their heritage during Hispanic Heritage Month?
During Hispanic Heritage Month and Hispanic-Serving Institution Week, Lamar State College Port Arthur’s Pathway to Excellence department organized a range of engaging activities that celebrate the vibrant tapestry of Hispanic culture. These included distributing Agua Fresca and Conchas, two cultural treasures deeply intertwined with Hispanic traditions. Aguas Frescas, which are flavorful, refreshing fruit-based drinks, and Conchas, sweet Mexican pastries with their distinctive shell-like shape, hold a special place in Hispanic cuisine and customs. Their vibrant colors, exotic flavors, and time-honored preparation methods make them uniquely emblematic of Hispanic culinary heritage.
Amidst these festivities, the Loteria game, in collaboration with the Student Government Association, added an interactive dimension to the celebration, bringing together participants in a classic Hispanic game of chance. The choice of the movie “In the Heights” for the “Dia De Cine” event was a deliberate one. This musical film captures the essence of Hispanic culture, particularly in the context of the Latino community in Washington Heights, New York. The film showcases the joys, struggles, and aspirations of Hispanic immigrants and their descendants, celebrating their vibrant music, dance, and close-knit neighborhoods.
This year’s “Tell Your Story” event featured guest speaker Ovi Vasquez. Ovi’s incredible life journey, from a humble beginning as a farm boy raised in a poor village in the sugarcane fields of Central America to earning a coveted spot at Harvard Business School, is nothing short of inspirational. He has emerged as a national keynote speaker and an accomplished author with six books, one of which became a #1 bestseller on Amazon. Ovi Vasquez’s selection as guest speaker was a thoughtful choice, aligning perfectly with the college’s mission to empower its diverse student body. His narrative embodied the values of education, determination, and the pursuit of excellence, making him an ideal figure to inspire students during this profound celebration of Hispanic heritage.
The highlight of these celebrations was the third annual “De Colores” fiesta, a vibrant community event held at Wilson Early College High School. The fiesta featured music, performances from local schools and community members, free food and vendors. This event has grown bigger and better each year, thanks to the dedicated efforts of the Pathway to Excellence team, ensuring that the week of events was both educational and enjoyable. The community came together for an evening of fellowship and celebration and was able to experience Hispanic heritage firsthand.
In what ways do you see Lamar State College Port Arthur contributing to the broader conversation about diversity and inclusion, not just during Hispanic Heritage Month, but throughout the entire year?
At Lamar State College Port Arthur, we firmly believe in the importance of such conversations, and we take an active role in fostering conversations about diversity and inclusion throughout the year. Southeast Texas, with its rich and diverse population, provides a unique backdrop for this dialogue. It is a region we love, not only for its southern hospitality but also for its culinary diversity, from gumbo to seafood, tamales, pupusas and more.
We recognize that Southeast Texas continues to evolve and grow in diversity. Our commitment to highlighting and celebrating this diversity goes beyond Hispanic Heritage Month. Throughout the year, we engage in initiatives, discussions and activities that promote inclusivity, understanding and respect among all members of our community. Diversity is not just a moment; it is a fundamental part of our shared journey, and we are dedicated to its ongoing recognition and celebration.