“Bless Me Ultima” Project connected campus and community

(05-01-2013)

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Enthusiasm and excitement emanates from the Adams State University committee which organized the "Bless Me, Ultima," Project on the Adams State campus April 5, 6, and 7.

"The movie hit home," said Donna Griego. "The theme captured our culture and moved the audience members." Andrea Benton-Maestas agreed: "The event had a positive impact and helped the campus build community and collaboration."

The committee members include Benton-Maestas, Institutional Reporting director; Griego, executive assistant to the senior vice president; Barbara Griego-Jones, administrative assistant for the Human Performance and Physical Education Department; Michelle Romero, associate director of Admissions; Cheryl Ruybal, Extended Studies program manager-brokered programs; and Bernadette Torres, Extended Studies quality assurance specialist.

The committee showed the film six times, including an early Friday show for high school students. Over 500 people from across the San Luis Valley attended the events. "Generations came together and connected," said Romero. "The experience highlighted our campus and promoted the Hispanic culture."

According to Benton-Maestas, the event aligned with the mission of the university to promote diversity and out-reach to the community. "We all worked as a true team and developed our leadership skills together."

Griego said planning the event provided a sense of purpose and further established a connection with the institution. "We all benefited from professional development, at no cost to the institution. This kind of hands-on, direct approach is integral to active learning and team-building."

Three high schools sent students to the Friday morning show. The committee said they are impressed with the Monte Vista High School students who made the effort to attend – arriving in personal autos on a day without classes. "It was great to see Adams State students, high school students and members of the community attend each of the showings," Griego-Jones added. "Every audience seemed so appreciative of the opportunity to gather and connect."

The committee members attended the 2012 Hilos Summer Institute in San Luis, organized by the Adams State Title V Grant Office. "The summer workshop spurred us to a plan of action," Romero said. "We wanted to bring our community together and connect to our culture and heritage."

Following the Friday morning and Saturday noon showing, a panel of community and campus members answered questions and lead discussions. After the last showing on Sunday, the local band from Antonito "Bad Attitude" performed and biscochitos and coffee were served. "The event offered opportunities for thought-provoking discussions about spirituality, politics, regional dialect, and culture," Griego said.

The committee collaborated with the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area and said they appreciate the support from many student groups and departments across campus. "We are already planning next year's event," Benton-Maestas said. The committee is also working on an enrichment course to bring the San Luis Valley culture to Adams State students.