Hispanic American Heritage Month: Education is way forward
September 20, 2012
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- For Felix Lopez, the vice president for student success at Pikes Peak Community College, education is the key to uniting different cultures and accepting societal differences.
"It is important for all of us to be educated," said Lopez during his speech Tuesday at the Hispanic American Heritage Month observance at the Elkhorn Conference Center.
Lopez, a Mexican-American born to Mexican parents who had little formal education, said his family placed an emphasis on the importance of education as an investment.
"(My parents) wanted to break the cycle of poverty," he said. "Education is expensive, but ignorance is even more expensive."
Lopez provided sobering statistics comparing Hispanic Americans to the rest of the population.
According to a study completed by the U.S. Department of Education, in 2008 only 11 percent of Hispanic adults between ages 25-29 had at least a bachelor's degree, compared to 33 percent of white Americans and 60 percent of Asian-Americans in the same age group.
"We cannot afford to be the status quo," Lopez said.
He challenged Soldiers to "break the cycle" and take advantage of education benefits the military offers.
"Not only do I salute you, I challenge you," he said. "Education should be used to make us colorblind."
Lt. Col. David Cushen, manager for the Equal Opportunity Program, said he hoped Lopez's words resonated with Soldiers.
"(Lopez) shared his story about how education was critical to his success," Cushen said. "Had he not persevered, he wouldn't have … aspired to the level where he is now."
Sharing those inspiring stories and connecting with Soldiers is precisely why the Equal Opportunity Program hosts cultural observances.
"These events promote cross-cultural awareness because we come from so many different backgrounds," said Sgt. 1st Class Harry DeBoise, equal opportunity adviser, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
"(Observances) give other people insight into different cultures," said Sgt. 1st Class Rhonda Dow, EO adviser, 43rd Sustainment Brigade. "Sometimes we take things for granted or we take things at face value. These events offer more insight and information on different cultures."
In addition to Lopez's speech, dancers performed Hispanic-inspired numbers including the meringue, the rumba and the salsa. Biographies of Pablo Picasso, Cesar Chavez and other prominent figures in Hispanic culture lined the walls. Attendees enjoyed a lunch buffet of Hispanic foods, including chicken fajitas, taquitos, enchiladas and jalapeno poppers.
In his closing remarks to attendees, Maj. Gen. Joseph Anderson, commanding general, 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson, reiterated the importance of respecting Hispanic culture and the importance of higher education.
"Education is the key to understanding how diversity can be a unifying factor across ethnicities," he said.
Anderson praised the influence Hispanics and Latinos have had on American culture and applauded their service in the military.
"While diversity implies a difference, it also incurs that that difference is beneficial," he said. "Without the dedicated efforts of Hispanic Americans in government, military service, social science, art, music and sports, our nation would be something less than it could be."