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Lambda Theta Alpha, Penn's Latin sorority, hosted its inaugural St. Jude Benefit on Friday evening. | Courtesy of Jacqueline Uy

Nov. 13 was a night full of hope, love and salsa dancing for Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority Inc. 

The sorority hosted its inaugural St. Jude Benefit on Friday night in Houston Hall. The event, which marked the sorority’s 40th anniversary, was open to the public but was predominantly attended by Penn and Temple University students and alumni.

In 2010, the sorority partnered with St. Jude and the organization has been one of the sorority’s main national philanthropic causes ever since. In addition to the sorority’s work with St. Jude, it also has a partnership with Women Against Abuse in which members of the organization come in to talk to the sorority members about domestic violence.

The sorority generated $2,000 to donate to St. Jude. In addition to donations made at the benefit, sorority members raised money participating in the annual St. Jude Walk, as well as smaller fundraisers throughout the year, such as empanada sales. Last year, chapters around the nation raised nearly $86,000. The amount raised goes up every year, College senior Javellys Polanco said.

The banquet itself was a full event with keynote speakers such as Holly Barilla, a St. Jude representative, and 2000 College graduate Zadith Pino, one of the founding sisters of the chapter.

In addition to the keynote speakers, the sorority gave out five awards. The first awards given out were named after the sorority’s founding principles, unity, love and respect, Polanco said. The sorority awarded its “Unity” award to the Temple chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha. The purpose of the award is to inspire collaboration and community involvement, she said.

The “Love” award was given to the Mujeres Empoderadas, an organization officially established this year at Penn, whose goal is to create a space for Latina women to have dialogue about navigating institutions like Penn. The third award, entitled “Respect,” went to Eddie Banks-Crosson, director of Penn’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life.

“He’s only been here for about three months but he’s really helped us with everything we needed. He was a key contributor to our banquet, and was always there whenever we needed him,” Polanco said.

Additionally, the sorority gave its “Hope” award to St. Jude for their work with young cancer patients and their “Universal Woman” award to Diana Estefania Alamo, 2015 College graduate and an alumna of the sorority.

“The Universal Woman award is for an alumnus who we really feel is hardworking, proud and wise,” Polanco said. “It went to Diane Estefania Estrada Alamo who was known for her amazing advocacy with the LGBT community and her passion, activism and empowerment with people of color. She inspires us and she truly embodies what it means to be a universal woman.”

After the awards were given out, the festivities of the night began, highlighted by Latin beat and salsa dancing.

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