Ricardo Alberto, A&S ’16, was awarded the 2015 Archbishop Oscar A. Romero Scholarship. Alberto, who is majoring in International Studies with a Political Science concentration and minoring in African Studies, has been the recipient of many honors and awards, including the Ever to Excel award and the McGillyCuddy League Travel Grant. He also participates in the AHANA Caucus, the SANKOFA Leadership Program, McNair Exploration program, and the Mississippi Delta service trip.
Alberto was awarded the scholarship at a ceremony Saturday evening. Yolanda Bustillo and Giancarlo Sanchez, both A&S ’16, were also finalists for the award.
The scholarship recognizes a Hispanic or Latino Boston College junior whose life demonstrates an understanding of and commitment to the values and ideals inherent in the life of Archbishop Romero. He or she must show involvement in and service to the Hispanic and Latino community at BC, as well as in the wider community.
Jesus Damian Baeza, the scholarship recipient in 2011 and BC ’12, led this year’s ceremony. Now, Baeza is a ninth and 10th grade English teacher in the South End. In his opening remarks, he explained that he always knew he wanted to work with young people, but it was not until he wrote his biography for the scholarship that he realized he wanted to be a teacher.
He said that he came to realize after graduating from BC that underprivileged meant much more than just not having money—it meant lacking social and cultural wealth, too.
“Privilege is being a third generation college student,” Baeza said. “Privilege is being taken to plays and museums as a child. Privilege is parents reading to their children every night before they go to bed. Privilege is having parents who know how to fill out their child’s financial aid form.”
His mission in the classroom, Baeza said, is much like Romero’s mission was in El Salvador: to use his own privilege to help those who are not so fortunate.
Rev. Don MacMillan, S.J., spoke of Romero’s work in El Salvador. Romero, he said, gave the people of El Salvador spirit and hope. He followed Jesus in a radical way—teaching others, healing the sinners, and loving everyone.
Receiving this scholarship is both an honor and responsibility, Alberto said, because the winner of the scholarship must be a bridge between cultures, an advocate, and an educator.
Marina Pastrana, BC ’08 and M.T.S. ’10, was recognized as the recipient of the Rev. John A. Dinneen, S.J., Hispanic Alumni Community Service Award. In 2007, she began to meet with faculty and staff at BC to address the needs of low socioeconomic students, said Janelly Rodriguez, co-chair of the Alumni Committee. Pastrana also founded the Manserrrat Coalition, which helped students for low socioeconomic backgrounds beyond just financial aid. She now works for the Catholic Extension Society, traveling around the United States to serve poor and marginalized Catholic communities.
“I look out today, and I’m filled with so much hope for the Latino community,” Pastrana said. “You are the future today. You are the doctors, the business leaders, the lawyers that are the seeds that have been by all those that have come before you. You will bear fruits.”
University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., took the stage to announce the winner of the scholarship. He talked about how Gasson tower symbolizes BC’s origins, what it is today, and what it can become in the future.
“It’s made up of many stones, many pieces of granite and limestone, that together make that wonderful building,” he said.
He said that all of the people gathered are like the individual pieces of stone—we are the product of others.
Alberto said he struggled as a freshman in adjusting to BC. He was 3,000 miles away from his home, and he wasn’t sure if he would fit in here. He began to find many mentors at BC, however—one of whom was Baeza, whom he met while touring BC and was later his RA.
“I’ve come a long way since I was that freshman sitting back there wondering what it would be like to stand up here,” Alberto said. “No longer struggling to find purpose, I now know what God has called me to do with my life. It is to speak out against injustice—provide a voice for those left voiceless and marginalized in our society.”
Featured Image by Sophie Reardon / Heights Staff