At the ¡Celebremos!: Graduates Take Flight ceremony on May 19, graduating senior Isabel Martinez delivered her fourth and final spoken-word piece to a group of 30 Latinx and Hispanic students receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Elon University this week. 

As Martinez addressed the Lakeside conference room, crowded with graduates, families and balloons, she alternated between Spanish and English to ensure all in attendance could understand her message. 

“We’ve had some of the most challenging situations come our way, but we adapted, we grew, we overcame,” Martinez said. “And at the end of the day, that’s what matters — that no matter how hard things got, we kept moving forward. And for that, we should thank ourselves.” 

Martinez’s spoken word pieces have become tradition at Celebremos, as she has delivered one at every event since freshman year. This year, Martinzez reflected on her own growth, favorite memories of Elon and the struggles unique to Latinx communities in predominantly white areas. 

“That’s something that spoken word gives,” Martinez said after the ceremony. “I find it to be a very conducive way to put my feelings out there without being super self-destructive, especially during the pandemic.” 

Following Martinez’s spoken word, Vice President for Student Life Jon Dooley awarded Maria Mendoza with the Hispanic and Latinx outstanding senior award for her leadership in El Centro de Español, academic excellence and undergraduate research. He further applauded the entire group for its collective contributions to Elon’s campus.

“You all have so much to be proud of,” Dooley said. “As I look out at this group of people, this group of graduates, I see difference makers and leaders all across the campus, and that makes me really proud to be part of your Elon experience.” 

Prior to a surprise mariachi band that closed out the ceremony, Sylvia Muñoz, director of the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education, presented each graduate with a stole. The white cloth was embroidered with an orange monarch butterfly — an image Munoz said is symbolic of difficult transitional periods faced by Latinx and Hispanic immigrant communities. 

As each graduate donned their stoles, Director of the Gender and LGBTQIA Center Luis Garay, strategic communications professor Vanessa Bravo and Assistant Director of Admissions for Diversity and Access Kimberly Romero alternated readings of messages written by the graduate for their family, reflecting their personal journey and gratitude to those who helped them along the way. 

“The world is not the same as it was when we first came here,” Martinez said. “Like caterpillars, we made our chrysalises here at Elon, and now, we are emerging like butterflies, ready to go where the wind will take us.”