Pioneer Public: Ariela Pineda


Written By Kylie Thomas, Co-Features/A&E Editor

Ariela Pineda is a sophomore acting major deeply inspired by her Latinx roots. Not only is she an actress, but she is also the main reason the LatinX Student Association is up and running with a variety of events to bring Latinx culture and representation to the forefront of campus life on Point Park.

Pineda took on the presidency of the LatinX Student Association on a whim after speaking with the director of Student Activities, Involvement, and Leadership (SAIL) during an activities fair. She had never been involved with a university club or organization before due to the coronavirus pandemic but knew she wanted to be involved with LatinX.

“I got involved with the club at the beginning of this past fall semester at the first activities fair after I saw that SAIL was there,” Pineda said. “I know that they manage all the student organizations, so I went up and just asked about LatinX. Because of the pandemic, it [LatinX Student Association] had no leaders, no board, and it was basically a dismantled kind of situation. So right then and there I was asked if I would be interested in a leadership position.”

It wasn’t easy starting a club essentially from scratch with no other board members. Though Pineda took the initiative to make the club as active and involved as possible right from the start, especially for Hispanic Heritage Month.

“It was so intimidating at first, especially because we started school in August, and Hispanic Heritage Month starts September 1,” Pineda said. “But I went through all the training, learned all about the forms, how to request things and learned how to hold events with the help of my advisor, Michael Thornhill. Hispanic Heritage Month was very frightening because the goal was to have at least one activity per week during that entire month. So it was very busy, but it’s so gratifying, it makes me happy to be able to provide events for people on campus.”

Not only has the club allowed Pineda to put on events for students, but it has also helped her connect back to her roots as an international student from Honduras. Moving to Pittsburgh during the coronavirus pandemic as an international student was tough on Pineda but LatinX Student Association gave her an opportunity to share her culture with others.

“I’m the only international actor major and I’m the only Hispanic woman acting major, so it was easy to feel so different from everyone,” Pineda said. “Even in meeting Latinx students who were born in America, our experiences are still very different. I had also heard that the only international Latinx students were all men and being a woman it was so hard to find a way to connect with them without it feeling weird. Taking this position was definitely a good step in making friends with the people that I was trying to reach out to.”

Another important aspect of the LatinX Student Association is that it encourages diversity and inclusion on campus, largely in regards to and within the Latinx community. The club introduces a space for Latinx students to connect while also welcoming other students to learn about the culture.

“There’s so much joy that comes from people enjoying the culture that you’ve grown up with,” Pineda said. “My culture being such a huge part of who I am and being able to share that with people who might have never been exposed to that really makes me so thankful to be able to diversify the campus like that.”

However, Pineda notes that there are issues of Latinx representation and diversity in the city of Pittsburgh. After experiencing and seeing these issues, it has become one of her goals to work on diversifying the city outside of campus.

“I will say Pittsburgh, in general, is not a great city for Latinx and Hispanic representation,” Pineda said. “So it does bring me joy to be able to provide that at Point Park, but I would love to be able to see more people like myself and more people like my club members doing things outside of campus. There’s obviously still a long way to go with any subject about diversity, but I feel like we’re in a good spot so far by focusing on exposure and bringing people together. That’s sort of what I’ve been trying to do this year, just get a steady group of people and connect them with Latinx heritage and culture.”

This is truly just the beginning for the LatinX Student Association, Pineda has big plans for the rest of the semester to finish off her first year of presidency.

“We hope to have an event soon that’s a shuttle trip to go to a Hispanic market, not only to support a LatinX business here in Pittsburgh but to provide students the transportation to get fresh produce and international goods,” Pineda said. “Then we plan to have a collaborative event with Strong Women Strong Girls (SWSG) for body positivity. We also plan to do another salsa dance night for Pioneer Community Week and a cumbia night which is another dance lesson in celebration of Selena.”

Pineda said she hopes that these events will continue to bring in students from all backgrounds for a fun break away from schoolwork. Success to Pineda isn’t measured in the number of attendees, instead, she’s just glad to bring something to the students of Point Park.

“In every event that we have, there are always different trade-offs like some people coming to dance nights and not other events,” Pineda said. “But either way, I’m happy that I can provide some relaxation for someone, even if it’s just a movie night, or if it’s a salsa night then they get a little workout. Even if we get a small turnout, I’m always happy and proud of the work we’ve done.”