Updated as of 6:02 p.m. on May 23 to include video.

Class of 2024 graduates within Elon University’s Latinx and Hispanic communities took flight — embodying the Monarch Butterfly — at the ¡Celebremos!: Graduates Take Flight on May 23 in the Lakeside Meeting Rooms.

The ceremony is an annual tradition to honor Latinx, Hispanic students that are graduating with bachelor's or master's degrees. The Monarch Butterfly was also adopted within the last couple of years as a symbol of spreading one’s wings and moving onto the next stage of life.

Erin Martin | Elon News Network

Alanis Camacho-Narvaez, graduate of 2024, hugs Sylvia Muñoz after receiving her stole at ¡Celebremos! Narvaez, who majored in psychology and minored in French, was a recipient of the prestigious Lumen Prize.

The event opened with Sylvia Muñoz, assistant dean of students and director of the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education, and MJ Larrazabal, assistant director for the CREDE, welcoming Elon graduates.

“I had the honor of working with our Latinx, Hispanic students every single day as a staff member in El Centro,” Larrazabal said during the event. “Celebremos was created to honor this great achievement, but also to honor the contributions that you — the family, the village, the friends — have made to each of our students’ villages during this time at Elon.”

Larrazabal then introduced University President Connie Book who gave opening remarks.

“I hope today you feel a great sense of pride in your accomplishments at Elon,” Book said during the event. “I also hope you feel a great sense of pride in how your culture and your heritage has impacted your understanding of your time here. … We're fortunate that you chose Elon, and because of that experience, you've allowed us the opportunity as a community to learn from each other, to learn from you and share some of that culture and heritage with our campus.”

Following Book’s remarks, each of the 19 graduates took turns standing in front of the podium while an Elon faculty member read a personalized speech written by the student — in either English, Spanish or Portuguese.

Erin Martin | Elon News Network

Elon President Connie Book addresses the audience at the ¡Celebremos! event on May 23, honoring Latinx/Hispanic graduates and their families.

After each graduate received their stoles — embellished with a Monarch Butterfly design — Jovani Mendez-Sandoval ’22, chief of staff of Elon’s Latinx-Hispanic Alumni Network, provided alumni remarks.

“The relationships you create don’t end here. They carry on and shift into new forms. The struggles you faced and overcame will be another feather in your hat,” Sandoval said. “Be proud of the things you have accomplished on this campus and be proud of your development. You have a strong support system here in the Elon community. And the support system doesn't end here as well.” 

Muñoz and Larrazabal gave closing remarks, encouraging each graduate to continue taking flight and honoring their heritage. 

“You have shown that our diversity is our greatest strength. You have celebrated your culture, your achievements, your resilience and your unwavering commitment to your roots,” Larrazabal said at the end of the event. “This journey has not always been easy. We have faced every challenge with courage and grace proving that our heritage is a source of immense power.”

Senior Manny Sanchez said after watching his peers go through this ceremony over the last four years, it was surreal to experience it first hand.

“Once you become a butterfly, you're supposed to bloom,” Sanchez told Elon News Network. “It really represents this meaning of this next step, of this whole ceremony. … When they say ‘What does it mean to be Latinx, to be Hispanic,’ I feel vibrant, I feel proud, I feel colorful.”

During his time at Elon, Sanchez said he learned that he would not have been able to make it this far without a mentor or support system. Through local volunteering at places such as the Dream Center and Village Project.

“I feel grateful being here in this position with the identity that I have, especially from a low-income, first-generation, Mexican household,” Sanchez said. “Seeing other kids like me when I go back to volunteering. … My main goal is just to help them out as much as I can. Be that mentor, because I've learned throughout these years that's really what got me here.”