Freshman’s Cultural Awareness Intensifies at Penn

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Media Contact:Jeanne Leong | | 215-573-8151January 2, 2014

In the short time freshman Paul DiNapoli has been at the University of Pennsylvania, he’s become a passionate advocate for the Latino community.

DiNapoli became involved in La Casa Latina and the Latino Coalition after hearing about the campus student cultural groups during New Student Orientation.

Being a part of the groups has put the Voorhees, N.J. man in touch with his heritage. His mother is from Colombia and his father is Italian-American. Dinners celebrating major holidays, such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, always feature some of his mom’s Colombian specialties, including empanadas and buñuelos, fried dough that’s similar to doughnuts.

Through his involvement in Penn’s Latino community, DiNapoli was chosen to attend the annual Latino Ivy League Conference, which brings together students from all eight Ivies.

DiNapoli was among 10 students representing Penn at the conference held at Columbia University in New York in early November.

“It was really great to compare notes and see what’s going on at the different schools,” DiNapoli says.

In the conference’s Poetry Café event, some attendees read their own poetry about being Latino. Other sessions gave students an opportunity to discuss issues they were facing in their schools and to share information and resources.

The conference attendees are planning to continue to work together to encourage Latino children to stay in school and suggest ways in which they can prepare for college.

I think we need to reach out to younger kids about college,” DiNapoli says. “That’s where we can make a difference.”

Now, he’s inspired to do more to assist the community.

“We really do have a voice, and, if we choose to use it, we can get a lot done in our communities,” DiNapoli says. “Not just at our universities but around our neighborhoods and maybe worldwide.”

He’ll be back at the conference next year. Penn Latino student groups selected DiNapoli as one of the two head delegates to represent Penn at the Latino Ivy League Conference in 2014.