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Remarks at Lafayette’s Scholarship Recognition Dinner. By Alberto Luna ’08

Alberto Luna, of the Bronx, N.Y., a Posse Foundation Scholar double majoring in psychology and English, spoke at Lafayette’s biennial Scholarship Recognition Dinner celebrating the close ties that develop between the alumni, parents, and friends who have created scholarships at Lafayette and the students who benefit from their generosity. Lafayette’s permanent endowment currently includes more than 400 named scholarships. More than half of Lafayette’s students receive assistance through the College’s scholarship program.

When I was granted the honor of speaking at this dinner, I began to reflect on my story, and how I find myself in the position that I could even be asked such a thing as being the student speaker for this evening.

I come from a place where opportunity is scarce and motivation and resources are even rarer. My high school’s graduating class was 67. A fifth of those were supposed to graduate a year or two before. Teachers have been burned out until they no longer care, or just never did. The academic building is underfunded and falling apart. At every turn it seems there are subtle signs to quit or to keep your dreams at a minimum.

Even so, some are fortunate enough to escape the death grip of despair and make it to a university. The challenge, however, does not stop there.

Arrived to foreign lands with blank stares and pale faces
Realized I was one of few races in strange places
Quick paces, Speed walking, praying for invisibility
Wearing clothes too large, covering my vulnerability
Had the ability, but I was hardheaded
As if inside my system I had embedded
A street mentality that refused weakness or help
And convinced myself that I was here by myself

It’s hard to come across any handouts, proper recognition, or any token of generosity that didn’t demand a payback or tax on top of it in my community. That’s why when Mrs. DeNardo told me of the opportunity to meet my scholarship donor, Mr. Robert Beane, it was a bit surreal to me. [Bob Beane and his son, Silas, established the S. Robert ’58 & Silas R. ’88 Beane Scholarship.] Don’t get me wrong, I knew there were giving people out in the world, it just never occurred to me that someone would want to give to me. But Mr. Beane not only gave his money, but his time as well. He comes on campus and has a desire to meet those who are benefiting from his kindness, which of course is a step beyond his duties as a donor. It’s quite a distinction to meet the person who, out of the goodness of his heart, has invested in a kid he didn’t even know, and for that I thank him with all my heart.

It was good for me to see that he had an interest in me
So it became more than a signature on a check but a living human being
Return letters and the handshake that shook my soul for the better
I knew I better make the most of my time here and my career
Because my fears of nobody cared were no longer there
It was more than fair for me to make his investment matter
So like stock I shot up, stood up, time to earn my stripes
To earn my spot for all those back in the hood I forgot

After that, I decided I was going to be more than a regular student. On campus, I co-founded the organization WORDS and served as co-president for two years. In that time we were able to use creative media to talk about social and political issues through open mic, discussion, and performance. In the second year of existence, the group won the Aaron O. Hoff Organization of the Year Award. I’ve also been the programming chair of my fraternity, Kappa Delta Rho, a position created just for me the first semester I joined. I used the opportunity to not only meet all the school’s requirements, but go above and beyond and get my fraternity involved in thought-provoking activities and intellectually stimulating programs, as well as community service and building cross-cultural relationships – such as a powerful dinner discussion with the Association of Black Collegians, Lafayette’s minority women’s support group, Nia, and the Hispanic Society of Lafayette, and being among the first fraternities to participate in the International Students Association’s Extravaganza. I’ve served on countless committees, from orientation to Lafayette Leadership Institute, all with the purpose of impacting the College in any way I can and encouraging others to do the same.

I refused to be disconnected, pulling the plug on ourselves
Drowning in the corrupted pool of apathy
Bound by chains to the floor by our agendas
Trapped inside our schedules
Each slot filled with the nonsense that we will forget tomorrow
Time flies and we crawl after it
Our time has come to act, yet we remain in the audience
And watch our opportunities pass us by, playing like a movie we’ve seen a million times
Let us embrace that we are here for a reason, more than ourselves
Let’s not just get our marks and leave, let’s also leave our marks

This year, I’m president of the organization Brothers of Lafayette, a multicultural group for young men on campus that encourages intellectual, professional, and academic growth while fostering the desire to impact the community we live in. I’m a Gateway ambassador, helping students learn about the Career Services department and utilize it effectively. I’m a team leader at the Landis Community Outreach Center, managing a team of nine volunteer programs to help children of all ages with reading, planning events, planning Literacy Day, a reading day at Lafayette for kids in the Easton community. I also work in the Office of Intercultural Development, promoting and planning diversity and multicultural events and uniting organizations of social justice and cultural aims in the co-sponsoring process.

I also work in the community, at the Lehigh Valley Child Care and the elementary school, all while applying to graduate schools. (At this point it seems I’ll be attending Fordham University for my professional degree in school psychology.) But I wouldn’t give up any of these things – all these things I do – for anything in the world.
Still, with all these things on my plate, I’m just one example. There are plenty of great things being done by the scholarship recipients in this room. The faces to the right or left of you are the representing faces of some of the strongest organizations on campus and some of the strongest voices in the classrooms. To the generous donors in the room, you are a driving force behind the accomplishments of these students. For every test we ace, every coin we raise, every program we run, and every child we make smile – everything that has been impacted due to our presence on campus, it’s not far-fetched to say that you might as well have been there holding our hands as we did them. You have been our earth angels, making a difference in our lives with the goodness of your hearts, and we, in turn, have made a difference here. So that test, those fundraisers, those programs, those children thank you, just as we thank you. You have donated your dollars, and with this we have made change. Thank you.

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