President of the Latin American Student Association helps maintain positive environment for Hispanic students

Student Spotlight
Daniel Ruano, third-year network and systems administration major

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Daniel Ruano and his fellow LASA members pose for a club photo at their first gathering of the fall semester.

Daniel Ruano is a third-year student from Long Island, N.Y., in the network and systems administration program. Ruano is the president of the Latin American Student Association (LASA). LASA is a student organization open to all RIT students to come together to share and learn about the Latin culture. Ruano has been involved with the organization since his first year at RIT and had worked in leadership roles for the club before being elected to his current position as president. In addition to his work with LASA, Ruano is in charge of his own volunteer group Rising Esperanza that focuses on raising funds and awareness for various charitable organizations.

To help celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), the club is hosting events to give back to their communities. One upcoming event is COPA LASA, a soccer tournament which raises money for the WorldHelp charity. The tournament will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 30, at Gracie’s Field. For more information and to sign up for the COPA LASA event, go to the Facebook event page.

Question: What brought you to RIT?
Answer: I looked into RIT based on a recommendation from my high school guidance counselor. As I started to look more in depth about RIT and the programs it offered, I felt like coming here would be very beneficial. When it was time to make a decision, I chose RIT because they offered me the most financial help and I felt like it was the best place for me to grow and develop the skills I’d need in my career.

Q: Why did you decide to be involved with LASA?
A: Coming to RIT was definitely a culture shock. I went from attending a school filled with minority students to having few minority students in my classes. During my first couple weeks at RIT, I was searching for a group where I could be surrounded by people of a similar background, and eventually I found LASA. What I loved most about the group was the fact that they introduced LASA as one big family. It made the first-year students like me feel welcomed and it gave them a place to call their own.

Q: Why do you feel it’s important to have LASA on campus?
A: LASA gives Hispanic students an outlet to express ourselves and to teach others about our culture. We provide students with the opportunity to learn, embrace and share their Latin heritage while creating and supporting cultural awareness in a social and familial atmosphere. LASA is not just an organization where people come together to enjoy themselves for an hour on Fridays, we also support the people in our communities. A lot of students were affected by everything that was happening in the media last year, especially our family members. We created ways for people in the RIT community to come out and let their opinions be heard. We express ourselves through our culture, we support and give back to communities in and out of Rochester, but most importantly we care about each and every one of the individuals within our community.

Q: What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
A: Hispanic Heritage Month is a way to re-immerse myself into my culture. Being away from home, I miss being reminded about my heritage. Whether it’s the décor, music, smell and taste of food or just being surrounded by my loved ones. Hispanic Heritage Month here at RIT gives me a taste of what being back home with my family is like. It allows me to learn about my culture, other cultures and how they all connect with one another.

Q: What sort of activities and events does LASA host for Hispanic Heritage Month?
A: We have two events that LASA hosts every year. The next event is COPA LASA, our annual philanthropic soccer tournament. This year funds made during this event will go to WorldHelp as they provide relief for those affected by Hurricane Irma. We will be celebrating the end of Hispanic Heritage Month with a Hispanic Heritage Game Night where students can learn trivia about our heritage and just spend some time together as a family. This year, however, we wanted to do more events that have to do with the Latino culture, so also added in Dia de los Ninos (Frida,y Sept. 29) and a Mental Health Awareness in the Latino Culture meeting.

Q: Can you tell me more about the COPA LASA event on Sept. 30?
A: COPA LASA is our annual philanthropic soccer tournament. Traditionally we used this event as a canned food drive to give back to different organizations in the Rochester community. However, with all the hurricanes going on in Latin America, our current philanthropy chair decided that he wanted to change it to a monetary entry and the funds would go to provide relief to those affected by the hurricanes. There is a $2 entry for individuals, but if you register as a team of six it is $10. As an incentive, we will be having a “Goya gift basket” for the winning team.

Q: In the time you have been involved with LASA, how have you seen it grow on campus?
A: Over the past three years a much larger presence of LASA on campus and the Hispanic community has developed. My first year in LASA I noticed that we focused a lot on the Rochester community but not so much on helping people around the world. When I served as philanthropy chair, I made sure we did events that focused on Rochester, but I also wanted to give back to those in Latin America. That year we hosted a Viennese Benefit to support Lush’s Hug It Forward Bottle School Project where all the funds went to building schools in Latin America. We’ve also cultivated a welcoming community for students. In general LASA has always had a large member base but this year I’ve noticed that most of our members are first-years. This shows me that even though LASA has grown as an organization, we have stuck to our roots and made ourselves a very welcoming place for first-year students.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: After graduation I’m not entirely sure what I will be doing. I have an idea of what I like to do but what I’ve learned over the years is that nothing really goes how you want it to. It’s your job to make the best with what you have. I see myself working in New York City where I’ll be close enough to go home and see my family. I see myself taking the next steps to making Rising Esperanza an official nonprofit organization. I want to get to travel and get a better idea of what the world is like outside of New York.