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Amarilex Davis Gerena
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Caldwell University is celebrating National-Hispanic Serving Institutions Week Sept. 12 to 18 and Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. The University is delighted to share stories of some outstanding Hispanic students. 

Paige Silvia portrait

Paige Silvia, a biology major and chemistry minor, was accepted into Caldwell’s 2022 STEM Advance summer research internship program, made possible by a U.S. Department of Education grant for Hispanic-Serving Institutions. She spent 80 hours as a researcher in the lab, working one on one with her organic chemistry professor, Dr. Xiaolei Gao and presented at a professional conference.  “I chose Caldwell for one-on-one connections,” said Silvia. The first in her family to attend college, she is proud of her Puerto Rican heritage and happy that the STEM grant program focused on making opportunities available to Hispanic students. 

Her father is a heavy-equipment operator, and her mother has worked for the state government in human resources for years.  Although her mom loves her job, she has always told her daughter that she wants her to have choices in the work world. Silvia said her parents encouraged her to go to college so she had options, “so I have an opportunity to do what makes me happy.”

Destiny Gonzalez-Ortiz ’22 has begun graduate school at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine after completing the Diversity Summer Internship Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health where she worked in biochemistry and molecular biology. A Caldwell University alumna with a bachelor’s degree in biology and minor in chemistry, she says being Hispanic is an important part of her identity and she is proud to be able to share her Puerto Rican culture with others.

Destiny Gonzalez-Ortiz

“I did not grow up seeing many people who look like me go into the scientific field and at times I felt discouraged. I used this as motivation, which led me to become the first college graduate in my family. I am so happy to have made it this far, and now I am a proud graduate student. I hope to show younger Hispanics that it is possible to achieve their dreams.”

She is grateful to those who made her internship at Johns Hopkins possible and rewarding, including her former Caldwell science professor, Dr. Agnes Berki; Caldwell alumna Dr. Barbara Detrick ’65, a longtime professor of pathology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who established the partnership between Caldwell and Johns Hopkins several years ago, and Dr. Vito Rebecca, assistant professor in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department at Johns Hopkins.

Hispanic Week Logo

Raul Gonzalez ’23  is president of Caldwell University’s Student Government Association. As a biology major, he says “it’s the faculty at Caldwell that makes it such a special place.” Growing up in a Catholic family of Mexican heritage, he appreciates that Caldwell as a Catholic university has provided him with opportunities to engage in his faith through campus ministry activities such as student retreats and Midnight Runs to serve the homeless in New York City.

Raul Gonzalez

Gonzalez has spoken at a number of occasions such as Veterans Day, orientations, Creative and Research Arts Day and Hispanic Heritage Month.He appreciates the support he had in getting acclimated to college life as a freshman through the Educational Opportunity Fund summer program. As president of the SGA, he wants to make sure he and his team focus on the Dominican pillar of community so that all students feel that connection. “The sense of community is something I want to make sure is alive.”

Amarilex Davis-Gerena ’23 aspires to become an attorney and someday a Supreme Court justice. A criminal justice major with a minor in pre-law and sociology and a 4.0 grade point average, she sees the criminal justice system as the path to bringing about justice for diverse and minority cultures. “I strive for peace,” and there can be no peace, she says, “if there is no equality, if there is no justice.” It all starts “with the sharing and acceptance of our stories.”

For her, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to share stories and to show acceptance—“love for one’s own culture and love for others”—and to celebrate her Dominican and Puerto Rican cultures. “It is what allows me to feel the most at home and the most comfortable when at times the world can leave me in discomfort.” This continuing story of her ancestors, she says, “runs through my blood, flows through my hair and reads through the sculpture of my bones.”

Davis-Gerena has made the dean’s list every semester of her university career and has been active on campus. She is vice president of the Student Government Association, secretary of the Black Student Union and a member of the Criminal Justice Honor Society Alpha Phi Sigma and the National Society of Leadership. Caldwell University has empowered her to use her voice for the voiceless, especially, she says, for those who feel discomfort because of their diversity. At Caldwell she discovered what her diverse voice can do, she wants other students to experience that too. “It all starts with us.” 

Katherine Morel ’24 has found a welcoming, diverse atmosphere at Caldwell University. As a first-generation university student who was raised in the Dominican Republic, she appreciates how Caldwell has given her the opportunity to meet students who share her culture and students from other backgrounds. Morel aspires to earn a doctoral degree in clinical psychology, but first she wants to gain confidence and work on developing her communication skills, “which is the reason I’m double majoring in psychology and English with a minor in drama, to understand not only myself but also others.” A member of Caldwell’s Spanish and InterVarsity clubs, Morel looks forward to celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, which she says gives people an opportunity to come together and learn about different cultures.

“My Hispanic heritage is my identity. It is what has shaped me into becoming a young woman who aspires to be someone her younger siblings look up to.” Born and raised in the small city of Salcedo, she stays connected to her heritage through music, food “and most importantly our family ties.” She sees a responsibility in communicating the beauty of her culture. “As a first-generation college student, it is important to present my Hispanic heritage and wear it as my gear to keep moving forward.”  

Celebrate National-Hispanic Serving Institutions Week and tag @HACUNews on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram and use hashtag #HSIsWeek. 

Caldwell University was formally recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution in March of 2020 by the U.S. Department of Education. 

National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week is an initiative of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities of which Caldwell University is a member. Universities honor the week with campus activities to raise awareness of the importance of Hispanic- Serving Institutions in improving access to education and advancing equity for traditionally underserved students.