ALANA Kicks Off Latino Heritage Month



Alex Pons

In celebration of Latino Heritage Month, this past Thursday at the African, Latin, Asian, and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center, Carlos Ojeda, Jr. gave an inspiring lecture on how overcoming obstacles often leads to the greatest successes.

As a child of Puerto Rican immigrant parents, Ojeda learned at an early age that his socioeconomic and cultural background made school a hard place to learn. One teacher even went as far as to describe him as “the greatest piece of garbage he had ever seen.”

It is for this reason that Ojeda titled his motivational speech “Me Dijen Que No…” (“They Tell Me No…”). Yet, through it all, Ojeda was blessed with an enormous amount of potential, which became evident when he took the SAT in high school and met with a college representative. With the opportunity to attend college with a four-year, full-ride scholarship, Carlos completed the application process and decided to attend Bloombsburg University for his undergraduate and became the first person in his family to graduate from college with honors.

Yet even when he escaped the dangers of his neighborhood, life’s challenges still found a way to test Ojeda’s passion and will to succeed, especially when Ojeda was faced with the sudden and tragic death of his one-year-old godson. Ojeda proved himself worthy of his achievements and stayed true to his Latino heritage.

“Never, ever, ever let anyone tell you who you are or what you will become. That’s your destiny to fulfill, no one else’s,” Ojeda said, stressing the central theme of his speech.

Through repeating the line, “Life is not measured by the breaths you take but rather by the moments that take your breath away,” Ojdea left a lasting impression with the audience on what it means to embrace your culture and to use it empower yourself.

“After listening to Ojeda’s speech, I felt really inspired and it made me want to work harder to put my Hispanic heritage out there just like he has,” first-year Yvette Bandin said. “It’s good for us to let people know that we are here to make a difference, whether it affects one person or a whole nation.”

In fact, most students felt a renewed sense of pride in their backgrounds after listening to Ojeda.

Today Ojeda. is certainly enjoying the fruits of his success. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in Business Management with a minor in Marketing, he went on to receive his Master’s Degree in Business Administration. Ojeda is a member of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, sits on the Board of Directors for the Pennsylvania Statewide Latino Coalition and is a well-known motivational speaker and poet.

Following in the spirit of Ojeda’s speech, the ALANA Cultural Center has other events planned throughout the month that will continue the Latino heritage celebration. Events include a lecture and performance from Guillermo Gomez-Pe?na; a visit from comedian Ernie G., who will discuss empowerment through comedy; flamenco dancing; and even a haunted house at La Casa, all of which are open to the entire Colgate community.