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Hispanic heritage celebrated at UHV event

By Victoria Advocate
Oct. 5, 2013 at 5:05 a.m.

Howell Middle School students, from left, Lauren Johnson, Landry Seitz and Jacqueline Cabrera stand next to their winning artwork during Friday's Hispanic Heritage Month reception at the University of Houston-Victoria.

Four University of Houston-Victoria students and three Howell Middle School students won top awards Sept. 27 at the university's Hispanic Heritage Month reception.

UHV, Victoria College and Victoria Independent School District representatives and students as well as community members attended the event at the university.

The celebration began with a performance by the school district's Ballet Folklorico. Then UHV students were honored with Poder Awards for overcoming obstacles to achieve success at school and in their lives while promoting their Hispanic heritage.

UHV has honored community members in previous years with the Poder Awards. "Poder" is a Spanish word meaning "power" or "will." This year, UHV faculty and staff members nominated university students who exhibited the characteristics of the award.

Mariela Chavar, a sophomore from Houston who was one of four students to receive the award, said her heritage is a big part of who she is.

"My family encourages me to take advantage of all my opportunities," she said. "My parents raised me the way they were raised - with a strong appreciation for our Mexican heritage and the importance of getting an education."

Chavar is a first-generation Mexican-American and the first in her family to go to college. She is active at UHV, volunteering to help at events and serving as a team leader during the Jaguar Journey new student orientation

"I always have been told I was a friendly person," she said. "I can't stand to see someone sitting alone, so I tend to go up and talk to them. I like the smaller campus at UHV because it makes it easier to get to know people."

Other UHV students who received Poder awards were Belinda Gonzalez, a graduate student from Victoria; and Michelle Looza and Eliseo Olvera, both juniors from Houston.

Also during event, middle school students were honored for their artwork depicting Hispanic culture. First place went to Landry Seitz, an eighth-grader at Howell Middle School, for her prisma pencil drawing "Vestida para el Ballet Folklorico." She said she was inspired by a photo of a woman in a blue dress because of the way the woman was showing off her clothing.

On the first day of school, Blanca Sanchez, a Howell Middle School art teacher, told Landry she won the contest.

"I was so surprised to hear I'd won the contest because a year ago I could barely draw," Landry said. "Ms. Sanchez taught me how to work on details to improve my artwork, and now I love to draw."

Landry, daughter of Marvin and Suzanne Seitz, won a $2,000 scholarship from UHV and a summer camp scholarship from VC. She also has her artwork featured on posters advertising Victoria's Hispanic Heritage Month events.

The contest took place in the spring when local middle school students submitted artwork that represented Hispanic heritage. UHV staff members met in August to judge the artwork and determine the winners. The other two winners were also students in Sanchez's art class last semester.

Second place went to seventh-grader Lauren Johnson, and eighth-grader Jacqueline Cabrera placed third in the contest. Lauren received a $600 college scholarship from the Victoria Chamber of Commerce Minority Business Council, and Jacqueline received a summer camp scholarship at VC.

Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, recognizes contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the U.S. and celebrates Hispanic heritage and culture.

UHV was designated a Hispanic Serving Institution in the spring. Universities can earn the designation if its enrollment of full-time undergraduates is at least 25 percent Hispanic. UHV's preliminary fall enrollment numbers show that more than 30 percent of the university's undergraduates are Hispanic.

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