SCCC Officially Recognized as a Hispanic Serving Institution


Jessyca Tingue, Sports Editor

Suffolk County Community College was recently named a Hispanic Serving Institution by the Department of Education. With this designation, many college administrators are ready to create a more family-centric atmosphere for the Hispanic community. 

On Thursday, administrators from the Office of Campus Activities and Student Affairs and other college faculty held the ‘You Belong Here’ event on the Ammerman Campus to have an open conversation with students on how the college can better serve the Latinx/Hispanic community on all campuses. As latin music played vibrantly in the background as Latino/Hispanic students and allies filled the room, the sense of family and support couldn’t have been clearer, signaling the best is yet to come.

“The event is a starting point,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Patricia Munsch. “[It’s] a way to bring students together with faculty and staff to understand that there is a community here, but there is more work that we need to do. So for me, the other piece is about listening.”

For a school to be declared a Hispanic Serving Institution, a college’s student body must be made up of at least 25 percent of students who identify as Hispanic. The college recently met this threshold and is now the first college in Suffolk County with the HSI designation, according to TBR News. With this designation, the college can apply for Title V grants through the Department of Education that fund resources and programs for Hispanic students. 

During the event, administrators turned the conversation over to the students and a three-person panel asking for their input on what the college can improve on or help out with to increase engagement and a sense of belonging. Some ideas included the need for bilingual interpreters throughout campus and in administrative buildings, having directions and signs in Spanish, having a more diverse faculty, and implementing a mentorship system with faculty and administration for students. The school is currently in the process of translating documents to Spanish so families can readily access information just like their English-speaking counterparts. 

“My main goal is to market all services and to make sure that people know that these services are here,” said Student Government Association president Jose Riquelme.

As an undocumented immigrant from Paraguay, Riquelme touched on the struggles he had getting financial aid. It is important to him as SGA president to make sure that all resources are known to those who need them and the importance of breaking that language barrier to feel a stronger sense of belonging. He also urges students that they can seek help from the student government if they need an advocate.

The event’s presenters included Dean of Student Affairs Dr. Edward Martinez, Associate Dean of Student Affairs Katherine Aguirre, Associate Dean of Student Affairs Tania Velazquez, Foreign Language/ESL Academic Chair and professor Dr. Nieves Alonso Almagro, Dr. Munsch, Chief Diversity Officer Christina Vargas, and Riquelme.

Many administrators recognize that this is only the beginning for the college, and with the right tools and people surrounding the Hispanic students and community, SCCC can make a more meaningful impact. 

“I feel like I belong here at this institution, ” said Riquelme. “It has been great to me, and I know it can be great to many more people.”