May 012005
Authors: Daniel Linn

El Centro seniors marched across the stage set up in the Lory Student Center Main Ballroom to the tune of "Pomp and Circumstance" Friday night, an early reward for their accomplishments as CSU students.

El Centro, CSU's advocacy office for the promotion of Latino and Hispanic involvement, held a banquet for graduating seniors. The graduates were given recognition for their academic efforts and their involvement with El Centro.

Graduating students were awarded with medals and praise by their mentors and professors. The formal event featured ichael Limon, Fort Collins Coloradoan's executive editor, as its keynote speaker.

Limon spoke about his upbringing in a migrant worker family and the importance of achievement and leadership among the Hispanic/Latino community. Limon brought a framed piece of his grandmother's house, which he said was made of the cheapest, thinnest materials available. He said the piece reminds him of where he came from when he is down or has a "big head."

Limon said using the resources around him helped him succeed. Born into a migrant-worker family, Limon looked to those around him for support.

"I couldn't have done anything without my family, mother and friends," Limon said.

Limon praised El Centro and its leaders, Guadalupe Salazar and Rich Salas, for making resources available for CSU students.

"Its invaluable," Limon said. "They do so much good work."

Hispanic vocalist Dinorah Curkendal performed several mariachi-style pieces to the enthusiastic applause of guests. Curkendal's experiences with a family guitar in her native Mexico made her love singing and music, earning her prestige in Mexican musical competitions. Curkendal moved to the United States to continue her career, and she met El Centro's assistant director, Rich Salas, at a music course.

"He's like a big teddy bear," Curkendal said. "He's a great friend, husband and father."

Curkendal said that students have freedom in college.

"They need to know that they have choices, chances and friends," Curkendal said.

Other performers included vocalist and pianist Tania Vijarro and harpist Andrea Villegas.

Ray Martinez, outgoing mayor of Fort Collins and El Centro sponsor, attended the ceremony. Martinez said students who use the services provided to them through CSU's advocacy offices before they begin to struggle are most likely to succeed.

"They keep their courage up," Martinez said.

Martinez said successful people "shine their own shoes." Martinez told the story of himself as a young boy, when he shined shoes for a living. When the Fort Collins mayor at the time came in to get his shoes shined, Martinez said he could remember thinking, "one day, those will be my shoes."

Martinez said students gain a great advantage through involvement with El Centro.

"(Students) get to know they can make something out of nothing," Martinez said.

He said recognizing students for their efforts is beneficial to both the awardees and the community.

"This is symbolic to point out that Hispanics are leaders," Martinez said.

Bruno Lerioussis, a Centennial High School 11th-grade student who was invited to the event by his counselor, said El Centro solidified his decision to come to CSU after high school.

"I feel like I belong here," Lerioussis said. "It has a big impact on my decision."

The event concluded with comments from Salazar, El Centro's director.

"Everything we do is for the students," Salazar said.

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