The Kappa Sigma Fraternity celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month today by recognizing the contributions of our Hispanic brothers across the United States. From coast to coast, brothers of Hispanic descent are exemplifying the Star and Crescent everyday in their lives. Over the past few weeks, we sat down with three upstanding brothers to discuss their experience in Kappa Sigma and what Hispanic Heritage Month means to them.
Brother Jonathan A. Batista (Rho-Sigma; St. John’s University – Staten Island, ’12) is a 5th grade history teacher for a charter school in Brooklyn, NY. Brother Batista’s specialty is world history and he enjoys the opportunity to introduce a group of students to history from around the world, “We get the opportunity to explore different ancient civilizations and we see if religion influenced civilization or visa-versa”
In addition to serving as a history teacher, Brother Batista is also leading his school’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. This is a particular point of pride as the students enrolled in the school are predominantly of African-American and Hispanic/Latinx. Brother Batista said, “It’s exciting to be able to show students my culture and background and introducing them to the things that I do on a day to day basis. [In fact,] I taught my students how to Salsa dance the other day…I dance Salsa on the student dance team. We perform regionally and it’s really cool!”
When asked what Hispanic Heritage Month means to him, Brother Batista responded, “Hispanic Heritage Month is a time where I get the opportunity to reflect on the pieces that make me who I am and get the opportunity to share my bits and pieces of culture to those that don’t necessarily know what being Hispanic or Latino entails.” Speaking about his undergraduate experience, Brother Batista explained,“Getting the opportunity to reflect and share those experiences is something that, when I was younger, I didn’t get a chance to do in my undergraduate career. A lot of it was meant to be more uniform. You’re expected to go with the flow and be more uniform and not jet away from what’s expected from you as a student, [and] as a fraternity member.” Brother Batista continued, “That uniformity, that homogeneity doesn’t allow for those creative experiences to come out. I’ve had the opportunity to flush out more of who I am as a Brother and as a Latino Hispanic exiting from college and getting to interact with more brothers as an [alumnus]. That’s one reason that I celebrate, to make sure that that sense of identity and that sense of expression isn’t hindered by myself or any other brother that doesn’t feel like he fits in with the group identity within his chapter.”
When speaking to undergraduate brothers, Brother Batista would be sure to share that “the amount that you put into whatever you do is the amount that you will get out. So, if you feel that you’re not having a full experience in college, or with the organization, it might just be that you’re not putting enough into it. Always make sure that you’re putting your all into anything that you do so you can get the results that you’re looking for.”
Wise words Brother Batista! Keep up the outstanding work you’re doing. Kappa Sigmas across North America are proud of you!
Brother Erik Carrizales (Tau-Sigma, Angelo State University, ’15) vividly remembers the day that he and his fellow founding fathers got word that the Supreme Executive Committee had approved their petition for a charter. “Honestly, the most memorable moment was when we were in chapter, and we were told that we had been given our charter and we were going to become [the] Tau-Sigma [chapter]”. Brother Carrizales is the Assistant Ranch Manager at a game conservation ranch along the southern border. His job is dynamic and can include mowing the lawn one day to doing a controlled burn or building an animal feeder the next and nearly anything else. The ranch is striving to build a sustainable habitat for the local wildlife and Brother Carrizales is integral to this mission.
While the scenery is breathtaking, it’s also remote as it takes about an hour and a half to get groceries and then another to come back. Even with this isolation, Brother Carrizales continues to support his chapter and the service projects he launched as a student. While an undergraduate, Brother Carrizales started a set of projects around his hometown of Ozona, TX, 90 minutes away from campus. He and fellow members of the Tau-Sigma chapter traveled to Ozona for various A Greater Cause service opportunities. Reflecting on this service, Brother Carrizales noted that he graduated with an agricultural background and applied it creatively to help his hometown. “We did what’s called controlled burns to restore the land. It’s a lot of volunteer hours [and it requires] a lot of knowledge. It came up to me one day in class, and I offered it up to two of our brothers and we’ve been making memories since. We still do it on the regular.” Unfortunately, one of the original brothers has joined the chapter celestial but Brother Carrizales and another Brother continue to aid the town.
When asked what Hispanic Heritage Month means to him, Brother Carrizales spoke highly of the Fraternity as a great equalizer: “I grew up in a small community where the predominant community is Hispanic. [Hispanic Heritage Month] was never really a big deal for me until I got to college. It’s more of a highlight for other cultures in the Hispanic community. In the fraternity, it’s the ultimate barrier breaker… you meet other brothers from other backgrounds and other walks of life. It brings you together by being diverse.”
Currently serving as an Assistant Alumnus Advisor for the Tau-Sigma chapter, Brother Carrizales never served on his chapter’s executive committee. However, he was active and served in a number of chair positions including risk manager and guard. When asked for a single piece of advice to share with today’s undergraduate brothers, Brother Carrizales was quick to say, “My advice for any undergraduate would be to set goals… not just for your chapter but for yourself in your chapter. Whether it be a higher GPA or more involvement of the fraternity in the community. Just to have a goal that you can see yourself achieving and using that to inspire your brothers [is powerful].“ Reflecting on his life, Brother Carrizales reflects, “I wouldn’t have this job, and wouldn’t be as motivated as I am if I hadn’t been as involved with the fraternity’s community service.”
Thank you for your service Brother Carrizales, and keep up the great work!
Brother Damian A. Mejia (Pi-Gamma, Johnson & Wales University – North Miami, ’19) is a Marketing Manager for a demolition and remediation company in Massachusetts and serves as an Assistant District Grand Master for the Northern New England District, as well as, an Assistant Alumnus Advisor for the Upsilon-Sigma chapter at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.
When asked what Hispanic Heritage Month means to him, Brother Mejia didn’t hesitate: “It means everything. My chapter was a majority Hispanic chapter, and we integrated our culture into our events and [as a result,] it felt like a more personal brotherhood.” Reflecting on his experience as a Kappa Sigma, Brother Mejia told us, “I’ve never felt that I was being treated differently. Particularly with everything happening in our country, I’ve always felt welcome… We’re brothers.”
When asked for his advice to current undergraduates, Brother Mejia offered these wise words: “Don’t forget why you’re in college. A lot of times students lose track of that; the point of college is to create the foundation for the future. Whether it’s networking or meeting brothers, take advantage and don’t lose track of it.”
Thank you Brother Mejia for your time and for your dedication to your brothers! A.E.K.Δ.B.