Student recognized for diversity achievements

By Courtney Brooks

With diversity issues in the forefront of the Northeastern landscape this year, one student has been recognized for her particular devotion. The 2006 President’s Individual Diversity Recognition award has been given to Laura Tolentino for her work with various Asian American student groups on campus.

Tolentino was co-vice president for the Filipino American student group Barkada this year, and was elected co-president for next year. She also worked with the Asian American Center as a co-chair for the counsel, as a student representative on the advisory board and an Asian American student mentor.

Tolentino received a certificate and a $1,000 check as her award. “I was really flattered, and it’s nice to get recognized sometimes, I don’t know how I did it. At one point I was like, I’m taking on too much, I can’t do it, but I survived and here I am,” Tolentino said.

Tolentino is a first-generation Filipino American from New Jersey, where her parents and two of her three siblings still live.

“I think growing up as an Asian American there has always been a label: they’re quiet, they don’t have a strong presence on campus, they don’t stand up for themselves,” Tolentino said. “I think we have a really strong presence on campus, and it’s frustrating when people don’t realize we’re doing good things. I’m very proud of my culture, very proud of my heritage, so it’s something I want to share with everyone.”

At the Asian American Center, Tolentino helped organize numerous events this year, such as cultural shows, fundraisers and also helped other student groups with their activities.

“She was there from the very beginning, being someone who is working from the ground up and taking something and making it bigger and better, following a vision all the way through. I think she’s done a fabulous job,” said Malaika Edwards, diversity coordinator at the Office of Affirmative Action and Diversity.

Barkada’s goals for next year are to put on a cultural show and make better connections with the minority groups across campus, Tolentino said. “We’re all doing the same thing, we’re all doing cultural shows, we’re all doing mentoring programs, and why not do it together?” Tolentino said. “Building collaborative relationships with groups on campus is really important because it brings together that whole multicultural effect.”

She said in the long run, that multiculturalism should be a campus-wide goal.

“The coolest thing I see is everyone working together,” Tolentino said. “And not just the minority groups but the entire Northeastern campus. Will that ever happen? I don’t know. But we can hope. In the long run I want to be able to visit Northeastern in 10 years and see different groups going to the Asian American Center to use it.”

Tolentino is a human resources and management major in the college of business. She is currently doing a co-op in the human resources department at Gillette, and is interested in working in college recruiting after she graduates. However, she said she will keep in touch with the groups she worked with here.

“Since the Asian American Center is so new, I have faith that it will get stronger over the next few years, and I couldn’t just leave it. I can’t leave Barkada, they’re my family,” she said.

Andrew Shen, director of the Asian American Center, said, “I’m thrilled that she got this, the award really speaks to people like her.”

The group diversity award went to the Northeastern Multi-faith Student Connection group, and the staff individual award went to Scott Quint, assistant dean and director of the International Student Scholar Association. The award ceremony is open to faculty, staff and students in the Curry Student Center Ballroom Tuesday April 25, 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. RSVP to Malaika Edwards in the Office of Affirmative Action and Diversity.

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