Berkeley College Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

Berkeley College students, faculty, and staff proudly joined in the observance of National Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrating the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans with special events and activities throughout September and October.

Recognizing Latino and Latina accomplishments

Kicking off the month, Berkeley College sponsored The Illustrious Awards on September 14, which recognize the accomplishments of Latino and Latina innovators. Michael J. Smith, President of Berkeley College, provided welcome remarks at the event held at the City University of New York Graduate Center. The awards ceremony was sponsored by the Institute for Latino Studies at Berkeley College, a nonprofit dedicated to research and advocacy, which will be housed on the College’s Newark campus.

Awards were presented to 53 prominent Latinos and Latinas. “The Illustrious Award honorees are examples of illustrious and courageous men and women who achieved their goals. They are role models for our students,” said President Smith.

Dario A. Cortes, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Strategic Alliances and Executive Director of the Berkeley College Foundation, and alumna Vanessa Deleon, Class of 2016, an interior designer and TV personality, are among past honorees. Students from Berkeley College served as ambassadors at the event.

Events raise awareness, celebrate Hispanic culture

Numerous other events and activities were part of the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Hispanic-themed panel discussions, food festivals, music, Salsa and Merengue dance classes, movies, and more were held at Berkeley campuses throughout New York and New Jersey. Several “Wikipedia Edit-A-Thons,” with the focus of correcting racial bias, were also held at the Newark campus.

Proud student success stories

Berkeley College has always been proud of its diverse student body. Today, 30 percent of Berkeley’s students are of Hispanic heritage. Several Hispanic students shared their experiences during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Drawn to the family atmosphere and community

Chamalie Ramsingh, a student at the Berkeley Woodbridge, NJ campus, was born in the Bronx to a mother from the Dominican Republic and father from Trinidad and Tobago. Chamalie says, “I grew up learning Spanish, which really opened up many opportunities for me in different jobs and helped me interact with different people. I always enjoyed listening to my mother’s stories about how she grew up with practically nothing. With 13 siblings, their resources were very limited, but she came here to give my brother and me a better life.” She continued, “Family is such an important part of Dominican culture. I think that’s part of why I was drawn to the family atmosphere of Berkeley College. It’s a very supportive environment. Everyone—the staff and the students—watches out for each other and is always there to help. Berkeley is an amazing experience and I cannot wait to see what opportunities lie ahead.”

From the Dominican Republic to the professional healthcare world

Katherine Santos Frías is a 19-year-old proud Latina originally from the Dominican Republic who now lives in Newark where she attends the Berkeley College School of Health Studies. “I’m the first generation in my family to go to college,” she points out. “It’s so important for me to go all the way. I’ve passed all my certifications along the way and finished every semester with A and B grades. I couldn’t be more proud of myself—I was hired at the office where I did my internship before I even graduated. It’s a blessing, but it’s been hard work balancing my studies, working, and babysitting my seven-month-old sister to help my parents. I was born and raised to help others and that will be my legacy.”

Career education for a global economy

The observation of National Hispanic Heritage Month is just one example of how Berkeley College celebrates its ethnic diversity. An environment where students are exposed to different people, cultures, and customs enhances the college experience for students and helps prepare Berkeley graduates for immersion into a global professional world. To learn more about the Berkeley College experience, visit

The views and/or opinions in this article are those of the individuals interviewed. The academic achievements and/or employment outcomes described in this article are specific to each individual and are not a guarantee of similar results for past or current students. For up-to-date and detailed information, please visit and view our catalogs at