PRSA celebrates Puerto Rican students’ heritage

Annual Puerto Rican Cultural Night 2019.

Iowa State’s Puerto Rican Student Association (PRSA) strives to promote and introduce Puerto Rican culture to our campus community. 

Jonathan O’Neill, senior in management and performing arts, is the president of PRSA. He says the association accomplishes their goals by hosting diverse activities throughout the academic year that engage the community, build camaraderie among its members and create a family environment.

“The PRSA’s goal is to create a community where Puerto Rican Students at Iowa State University, and others interested in learning more about our culture and heritage, have a space where they feel like they belong, are represented and can develop to become better individuals and professionals while also learning and embracing the Puerto Rican culture,” O’Neill said.

PRSA is working to become a more inclusive student organization. O’Neill said the organization was created with the sole purpose to provide Puerto Rican students studying at Iowa State with a space where they could interact socially and have a place where they could come together and celebrate their culture. But PRSA is open to anyone and everyone who is interested in being a part of the organization.

PRSA hosts many events throughout the school year. One of their bigger events is Puerto Rican Cultural Night, an annual event hosted at the Memorial Union where they celebrate their culture and heritage with the Iowa State community. This event is open to the public, free and has everything from traditional food, photo booths, music, live entertainment and more.

PRSA also hosts an annual Thanksgiving Dinner for members of their community who couldn’t go home for the holiday. O’Neill said this is a festive dinner with other members and a space where they can feel at home and at ease.

The organization hosts various other events like black light dodgeball, ski trips, road trips to Des Moines, intramural tournaments, game day cookouts, ISU concession stands and more.

During this time of the pandemic and uncertainty, PRSA has been keeping track of their student members who were able to go home and those who stayed in Ames.

“Fortunately, many of the Puerto Rican students were able to go back home. There are still some members who are staying in Ames, and one of the purposes of the survey was to tally the number of students from our community who stayed, so we could make sure to reach out to them and provide the support they need,” O’Neill said.

PRSA has many ideas of how to keep their members connected during this time, such as informal virtual meetings. They have also implemented a ‘Jueves Social’ (Social Thursday) concept to their Instagram page. 

“Every Thursday we randomly select one of our members and ask them what they’ve been up to during this time and post their story on our page,” O’Neill said. “We are hoping to receive feedback from them to see how we can make their experience better even through this stressful and uncertain time.”

O’Neill said PRSA’s priority as an organization right now is to provide students with the support they need and to make sure they know the organization and their members are always there for them.

“I am a part of the PRSA because it’s something that keeps me grounded and connected to where I am from, which is Puerto Rico, even if I’m miles and miles away,” O’Neill said. “It’s something that makes me proud, to be able to have an organization that promotes our culture and represents some of the values and traditions we have, it really means everything to me.”