Office of the President

Recognizing Latinx Heritage Month & HSI Week

September 15, 2023

Dear Campus Community,

76 years ago, Gonzalo and Felicitas Mendez refused to allow their daughter Sylvia to be defined by the color of her skin. They understood the promise of freedom and opportunity in America to include the right to an education free of racism, bigotry and discrimination.  

Gonzalo and Felicitas refused to enroll Sylvia at the local “Mexican school” and instead filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Sylvia and more than 5,000 other students wrongfully discriminated against here in California. Thankfully, the Mendez family won, and Sylvia began attending the 17th Street School in Westminster – less than 25 miles from where our campus now sits – seven years before the Brown vs. Board of Education case outlawed school segregation nationally.  

Too often, we forget that senseless barriers to our nation’s youth existed only decades ago, taking place during the lifetimes of our loved ones and family members. My father and mother attended segregated schools, I drank from segregated water fountains, and I saw the damage first-hand of a two-tiered system on students and teachers. Today, it is my honor to celebrate the bravery and heroism of the Mendez family and lead a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) right here in the heart of Southern California.  

This year, let us all embrace the continued fight for equity for every student and celebrate the cultures and communities that make us stronger by recognizing National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week (Sept. 11-17) and Latinx Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15).   

HSI Week celebrates the important contributions that over 500 colleges and universities, including Cal Poly Pomona and another 20 of the 23 CSU campuses, play in providing access and quality education to Latinx and other historically underserved students.  

Latinx Heritage Month — a larger recognition of the history, culture, and contributions of Latinx individuals in our nation, whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America — highlights the importance of the Latinx community and celebrates the gifts and people that enhance our university and lives. 

Such events remind us that as an institution with a mission to advance creativity, discovery and innovation and a proud HSI, we are called to celebrate and make more visible the wealth of ideas, perspectives, contributions and achievements of Latinx people and stand united in our power to continue building stronger communities in support of each other.  

I invite you to learn and participate in the series of events and programs taking place at CPP this month, along with the activities in the communities where you live.      

When we stand together, we can boldly champion equity and opportunity and use the power of education to continue shaping our world for the better. 


Soraya M. Coley, Ph.D.