April 15, 2019
By Chennelle Channer
Nathaniel Perez is a senior majoring in industrial systems engineering. He is also the president of La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc. (LUL). LUL was first founded in 1982 at Cornell University to uplift Latino men and create a haven for them. The Beta chapter at Binghamton University was founded in 1986. Before LUL there was no such organization on either campus that catered to Latino men. Their values are brotherhood, community service and academic excellence, and the hermanos of LUL take these values to heart, which is why they created the PATH scholarship for high school students in the Binghamton area (Providing Access to Higher Education).
Perez noticed that while LUL's mission is to provide access to higher education and foster brotherhood among students of color, the PATH scholarship had taken a lapse over the last couple of years. He made it a priority to bring it back in full force this year, as these values have personal significance for him. When he was in high school, he didn't feel like he could go away to college. Higher education seems out of reach for many students of color, due to financial limitations and lack of resources and support when searching for and applying to colleges.
The hermanos of LUL want to help bridge this gap. They aspire to be the representation that they needed to see when they were applying to schools. "We want to be able to be role models for students," says Perez, "specifically high school students, so that they can say, 'He did it, he's the same complexion as me, from the same neighborhood I came from. If he can attend school and pursue an engineering degree then I can as well.'"
This type of representation and support is essential for other Latinx students and students of color pursuing a college education. Seeing other students of color confidently occupy spaces in higher education is central in giving them the encouragement they need to push past the obstacles they face and pursue a degree.
Perez partnered with LUL alumni Rudolfo Blackman '87 who is currently a Spanish teacher at Binghamton High School. He is also reaching out to other high schools in the Binghamton area so that more students can be aware of and have access to the scholarship. This will be the 20th year the scholarship has been offered, and it will be awarded to the recipients at LUL's annual Noche Dorada (golden night) banquet. Two recipients will receive scholarships of $500 dollars each to offset some college costs. Perez says that he hopes that by reintroducing the scholarship to the Binghamton community, it will "get students interested in applying and show that they are excited and planning on attending college."
This goal is certainly attainable, as evidenced by the story of a previous scholarship recipient they recently heard about who ended up applying to and getting accepted to a SUNY school. They anticipate more stories like this in the near future.
Photos: banner-the hermanos of La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc. Beta chapter; top right-Nathaniel Perez.