Wiley College Crowns First Hispanic Queen
History was made at Wiley College last month when 28 year-old Monica Saenz became the first Hispanic woman to win the title of Miss Wiley. The Senior biology major was crowned Friday, November 2, at the Julius S. Scott, Sr. Chapel. Miss Saenz was reared by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Horacio and Socarro Saenz, in Juarez Chichuaha, Mexico. She says that she was encouraged by her high school principal to apply to Wiley College for a scholarship and great education. “I landed in the perfect place. I always had a dream of traveling out of the country to experience a different background. I think if I had landed in a bigger city, I wouldn’t have accomplished as much. It would probably have just been a distraction. Wiley was just ‘right’ for me.” It was apparently right for her younger brother, Horacio, Jr., who is also a senior at the College.
This wasn’t the first time that Miss Saenz broke a record crossing color barriers. In Spring 2011, she became Wiley College’s first Hispanic member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Phi Chapter. “I decided to pledge AKA because of my mentor, Mrs. Shawntell McWilliams, a former Upward Bound Director, whom I served under for three years. I saw many characteristics in her that I wanted to emulate. Even though the sorority is mainly comprised of Black members, something inside told me that I could do it. When I found out I was elected queen, I cried. There were obstacles against me, but I always had faith. In my nomination speech, I quoted some of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s powerful words, asking students not to judge me by the color of my skin, but the content of my character.” College officials say that Miss Saenz received more than two-thirds the votes needed to win the crown. Her proud mother boarded an airplane from Mexico to be present for the crowning of her daughter, as did her mentor, Mrs. McWilliams, who travel from Houston for the big day.
Miss Saenz currently holds at 3.1 G.P.A. and serves as President of the Wiley College International Club, a member of Student National Medical Association and has served as a Teacher’s Assistant. During her reign she says that she hopes to bridge relationships between American and International students, help the College Go Green and raise health and fitness awareness. “I just want to use the skills and talents that God has given me, especially right now with the increasing number of international students at Wiley. It makes me feel that I’m at the right place at the right moment.”
Dr. Joseph L. Morale, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Services, says that there are cur-rently 102 Hispanic students on campus. “It’s important to teach all of our young people about the influence of Hispanic culture in our country. Many generations have enriched and influenced our country in numerous ways. We offer our Hispanic students what we would offer any other student — an opportunity for full participation in life on campus and financial assistance when applicable. We give them the same experience that we give all students at the college, yet still allow for the cultural diversity that they naturally bring.”
Last month, veteran international journalist, editor, and author Ethan Casey, served as a guest speaker November 15 in the Freeman P. and Carrie E. Hodge
Center, sharing a presentation of his trip across the United States while gathering stories, research, and photos for his next book, Home Free: An American Road Trip. “I was surprised to see the Hispanic base at Wiley in a good way. It’s clear to me that Wiley College is building on its strengths in reaching out to other communities across the U.S. and country.”
This past October the College celebrated National Hispanic Month on-and-off campus. Reverend Keith Swatzel, Pastor of Renacer United Methodist Church of Mount Pleasant, delivered a sermon October 16 to the Wiley College Community in the Julius S. Scott, Sr. Chapel, alternating the message from English to Spanish through the service. Chapel Service was led that morning solely by Hispanic students. All hymns were sung in Spanish by The A Cappel-la Choir of Wiley College and lead Hispanic student, Sophomore music major Susana Belmontes. “It was so hard getting through the songs while singing in my native tongue. I was overwhelmed with wonderful memories of my parents, grandparents, family, and friends at my church back home. At the same time though, it felt so good. To top it off, we had a prayer session in Spanish after chapel. It was so powerful. I was touched because it shows that Wiley College really cares for us.”
A group of Hispanic students visited South Marshall Elementary School, October 12, to share information with the students about their countries, read and sing to them in Spanish, and to impress upon them the importance of learning two languages.
Founded in 1873, Wiley College, a liberal arts college, is one of the oldest private historically Black institutions of higher learning in Texas and is affiliat-ed with the United Methodist Church and United Negro College Fund. The College will celebrate its 140th anniversary this spring.