With music blaring and lights strobing, the Latino Student Organization (LSO) and Emory Salsa Club hosted its annual semi-formal ball Noche de Gala on Saturday, Oct. 17.

Noche de Gala is an event in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and its main goal is to raise money for the LSO Leadership Development Scholarship (LLDS). Although the event was free to all students, a suggested donation of $2 would go towards funding the scholarship for future recipients.

Each fall semester one freshman accepts the LLDS, which not only provides an award of $1,000, but also the opportunity to work as an LSO Freshman Liaison.

“The roles of the Freshman Liaison are to communicate the needs of the freshman class to Executive Board members and to brainstorm ways to recruit and increase freshmen involvement in the organization,” said College sophomore and LSO Co-Publicity Chair Manda Torres.

This year’s Freshman Liaison is Yaitnetshka Vargas.

Vargas said she attempts to foster a stronger relationship between LSO and the increasing population of Latino freshmen.

“I do my best to make others feel connected because I came from a high school with not very many Latinos,” Vargas said. “I enjoy the sense of community among the Latinos on campus. It really allows you to feel connected to the larger group of Latinos at Emory.”

College sophomore and LSO Philanthropy Chair Greta Luna-Priego was last year’s LLDS recipient and Freshman Liaison.

“[Receiving the LLDS] made me feel like I was a representative of the Latino community,” Luna-Priego said. “I took it as an opportunity to make an instantaneous connection with other freshman Latinos on campus.”.

Luna-Priego echoed the sentiments of Vargas by stating that this position on LSO allowed her to feel more aware and connected to her own Latino roots and the larger network of Latino students at the University.

LSO and its overarching goals for Emory’s Latino community is to address the diversity of the community.

“[LSO strives] to highlight the richness of our heritage through various events during Hispanic Heritage Month … and bring together people where they can express themselves at our general body meetings,” College senior and LSO Vice President Brian Delgado said.

According to Delgado, Noche de Gala was the pinnacle of LSO’s Hispanic Heritage Month festivities, which began in mid-September and continues until mid-October.

“I am proud to be a part of the Latino community, here at Emory specifically, because the community here is all about coming together and making sure our presence is known on campus,” Torres said, citing the new Centro Latino space and the University’s decision to offer financial aid to undocumented students starting this year.

Not only were partygoers treated to an unforgettable dancing experience, they were given the opportunity to help with a noble cause by contributing to the LLDS funds for the next freshman class.

“Noche de Gala is my time to share and celebrate my home and culture,” College sophomore Pamela Romero said. “You know it was a great night when you’re looking for pain-reliever medicine the next morning.”