The Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS) has a lot to celebrate.
The organization, which began in 1992, is celebrating 30 years at La Salle University. Throughout its time on campus, the group continues to be a space for Latin American students and those who promote Latin American cultural awareness and understanding.
“We are an organization that is dedicated to teaching others about our Hispanic and Latino culture,” said OLAS vice president Yazmín Herrera-Galán, ’23. “We want others to get to know us on a deeper level, to see and learn about some of our traditions that might help explain why we do and say certain things. Although we are a Hispanic/Latino organization, our goal is to make everyone feel included. Anyone who wants to learn more about us, and enjoy our music, language, food, and members are welcome to join.”
The organization kicked off the academic year with a variety of events during Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15–Oct. 15). The events included Lotería, a game similar to bingo; and Comedor at Treetops, a night of Hispanic foods served by members of OLAS. To close out the month, OLAS organized an Oct. 7 alumni and student panel discussion, “Alum Outlook: Life and Higher Education,” spanning topics that affect minority students.
The La Salle community can also look forward to a Dia de los Murertos event and additional programming as the academic year continues. Dia de los Muertos is traditionally celebrated in Mexico from Nov. 1-2.
“We host this event each year to remember and celebrate our loved ones through an altar and various activities,” said OLAS President Nayeli Picon, ‘23.
Herrera-Galán said OLAS feels like a family to its members and alumni. It is a space where students can be their authentic selves and make lifelong friends.
Virtually, students can stay up to date by following the organization’s Instagram (@olas_lasalle) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the email list. Updates are also posted on Facebook and Presence.
Herrera-Galán said she met Picon through the organization. The two students were the only Latinas in their international business classes and having each other made it that much easier to make La Salle feel like home.
“I remember coming in as a freshman and finding this small organization that was passionate about spreading the Latino culture,” Picon said. “It was an organization of about six to seven students and now I can proudly say that our e-board is made up of 12 students. Our organization has not only doubled but we have seen increased interest from many other students. I am proud to say that the Hispanic community on campus has grown tremendously.”
Along with events and service projects, OLAS is working on a collaboration with the Bilingual Undergraduate Studies for Collegiate Advancement (BUSCA) program to create a mentorship initiative.
“Our goal is to have more engagement with the BUSCA Program. We are proud to say that many of the BUSCA members have expressed interest in OLAS. We have worked on events like Latino Present, where we provide high school students with a Spanish campus tour,” Herrera-Galán said.
Beginning in 1992, OLAS began providing a space for students to celebrate Latin American heritage and culture. In Fall 1999, OLAS represented La Salle in the Puerto Rican Day Parade, according to the 2000 edition of the Explorer yearbook. The organization has brought artists to campus to share their works including silk-screen artist Danny Polanco, poet-activist Mariposa, storyteller Magna Diaz, and Chicana poet Pat Mora, along with musical bands Muchachitos del Merengue, Tres Mas Uno, and the dance company Salseros.
The organization also has participated in service projects around Philadelphia. According to La Salle’s yearbook, past OLAS members have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and the Philadelphia AIDS Walk.
“OLAS is one of the many organizations on La Salle’s campus that celebrates our diverse student population,” said Cherylyn Rush, Multicultural Affairs Director. “It has gone from a Latino Organization to a diverse organization that continues to grow stronger in the La Salle Community. After 30 years, this organization continues to uphold its mission of providing our Latin American students a positive and inclusive space to honor their cultures and have been dedicated to promoting cultural awareness and understanding throughout the student body.”
OLAS holds weekly meetings on Tuesdays from 12:35-1:35 p.m. in their office on the Union’s third floor. All students are invited.