Delta Tau Lambda establishes annual event honoring Latina empowerment

Maddie Forshee

Delta Tau Lambda, a Grand Valley State University Latina-based sorority, has established a new annual tradition of honoring and empowering women. The event recognizes Latina women around the Grand Rapids community; an event no better named than ‘Salute to Latinas.’

Delta Tau Lambda was established at GVSU in January. Once the sorority received its charter, members began to plan events to get their name out there.

The women of Delta Tau Lambda have hosted resume workshops for inner-city high school seniors, held bake sales and clothing drives and have participated in breast cancer awareness events in Grand Rapids. Salute to Latinas is the newest addition to their list of philanthropic events.

Delta Tau Lambda’s national organization requires that each chapter holds the event once a year, but the chapter can essentially create their own theme within the event and can select speakers of their choice who they feel adequately represent the theme.

“Our theme is (based around) women who faced adversity and overcame it,” said Brenda Garcia, president of the GVSU Delta Tau Lambda chapter. “We wanted to share that with the Grand Valley community and the surrounding community as well.”

On Nov. 7, family, friends, students and community members came together to enjoy dinner, music and guest speakers at the GVSU Alumni House for the Salute to Latinas event.

It began with a welcome from the sisters of the sorority, who then introduced Ariana Cohran, a Grand Rapids Central High School student who recited a poem she wrote titled “I Am a Woman.”

The first guest speaker was Floriza Genautis, the CEO of Management Business Solutions, a staffing company based in Grand Rapids. Genautis, a Philippine native, held many temporary jobs when she first moved to America since English was not her first language. This work ultimately drove her to begin her own business.

At the event, Genautis shared her equation for success: learn, do something you are passionate about and give back.

“I am quite fortunate,” she said. “Not to say there weren’t any bumps along the road. If I can do it, anyone else can too.”

The members of Delta Tau Lambda first read Genautis’ story in the “50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan” list that the Grand Rapids Business Journal released earlier this year, which prompted the girls to invite her as a guest speaker despite not being Latina.

“We wanted to bring in another perspective,” said Kayla Mayhue, vice president of Delta Tau Lambda. “I think that’s important.”

After Genautis spoke, the chapter gave away the Lydia Cruz & Sandra Maria Ramos Scholarship, a $500 scholarship given to a local college-bound high school senior. The recipient was Maria Marcos, a Wyoming High School student who wants to study psychology.

The Diamond Award, an award to honor a Latina woman in the community who is most deserving of recognition, was also given away. The recipient was Sue Garza, a close friend and coworker to one of the alumna of the chapter.

The keynote speaker of the event was Leslie King, who began the Sacred Beginnings Women’s Transitional Program in Grand Rapids. In an effort to shed light on prostitution in Grand Rapids and empower women who have been affected by human trafficking, she began the program in 2006.

King was forced into prostitution at age 15 and endured 20 years of it before entering a rehabilitation program. Since the program’s start, she has helped over 400 women in the local community.

King also serves on the committee for the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, is president of the Kent County Recovery Housing Program and runs the all-volunteer Sacred Beginnings Program all while pursuing her master’s degree in social work at GVSU.

“If I hadn’t been where I’ve been, I wouldn’t be who I am,” King said. “No matter what anyone tells you what you can’t do, only you know what you won’t do. I pushed myself to the limit.”