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Amanda Michaels | Thursday, February 19, 2004

With a father from Nuevo Leon, Mexico and a Mexican mother from Houston, Stephanie Garza knows the reality of diversity at Notre Dame first-hand. Co-president of La Alianza, a group representing students from diverse backgrounds including Mexicans, Cubans and Puerto Ricans, and international students from such countries as El Salvador and Panama. Garza is a leader in the effort to foster the blending of groups while preserving the uniqueness of each individual culture.”A person can learn about their culture through the celebration of that culture or through the experience of new cultures,” Garza said. “The ethnic groups on campus do this service for Notre Dame, [like] La Alianza, which commits itself to the [expression] of the diverse Latino and Latin American culture.”For her, La Alianza is a way to help those sharing her cultural background by providing them with a familiar, comfortable environment in which to express themselves.”Every year, more Latinos are admitted and attend Notre Dame,” Garza said. “My involvement in La Alianza is motivated by that and it is an opportunity for me to make sure that other Latinos feel a sense of the Notre Dame community, which includes the celebration of all the diverse cultures that are all members of the Notre Dame family.” Though dedicated to La Alianza, Garza was also a member of the Hawaii Club in her freshman year – an experience which exposed her to a culture completely unfamiliar to her.”The cultural organizations on campus are open to all members of the NotreDame community, regardless of ethnicity,” Garza said.”I am not Hawaiian nor have I ever been to Hawaii, but I felt accepted and I enjoyed myself just the same.”Despite her efforts and those of La Alianza, in conjunction with other cultural groups like the Asian American Association, Black Cultural Arts Council and Filipino American Student Organization, she sees room for improvement.”Notre Dame does have a diverse campus – there are people from all 50 states and more than 60 countries – but I feel that the diversity is not as celebrated as it could be.”