Ana Raineri is a senior at Illinois State with a major in Spanish and minors in Latin American and Latino/a studies (LALS), and sociology.

Raineri comes from a European-Latino family; her mother’s family is originally from Mayari, Cuba, and her father’s family migrated from Sicily, Italy. Raineri was born in Illinois but lived in South Florida until age 7 before returning to Chicago with her family. She graduated from Montini Catholic High School and attended College of DuPage for a year and Paul Mitchell Cosmetology School in Normal. She fell in love with the town of Normal and decided to transfer to Illinois State to complete her undergraduate degree. Raineri said she is proud of both cultures but feels closer to her Cuban heritage. “After hearing the history and struggles of my Cuban family, I became intrigued in learning more about Cuban and Latino history and culture,” she said.

Before declaring LALS as a minor, Raineri had taken SOA 109: Introduction to Latino Studies with Professor Maura Toro-Morn. She described this course as an eye-opener to many aspects of “Latinidad” that she was not familiar with before. “Taking this class has heightened my fascination with the Latino culture,” she said. “I am captivated by the history and complexities that make up the various Latino cultures in the United States.”

Raineri described her LALS minor as a positive experience with many wonderful opportunities that extended her studies. In fall 2014 she had the opportunity to work with Toro-Morn as her teaching assistant for SOA 109. Raineri described this experience as a great opportunity to “help educate many fellow Latinos, along with other students on the issues facing Latinos today.” She also participated in many social and cultural events the program organized throughout the year. Raineri attended the 2014 Latino Cultural Dinner co-hosted by LALS and University Housing Services. She had the opportunity to hear J.R. Martinez’s speak about his personal life, family’s history, and resilience in the face of adversities as a Latino. She was greatly inspired by Martinez’s experiences and was able to relate as a Latina.

“Overall, the Latino studies program is a great minor for any student to take, whatever their major,” Raineri said. “Understanding the Latino culture is very important, just due to the fact that Latinos are making a more predominant presence in society and will continue to grow more and more over the years.

“This wonderful program provides students with key concepts, information, and a foundation of the knowledge and the roots of the Latino culture. This minor opens the eyes of students to the multicultural and multilingual environment we live in, here in the United States. I have learned a lot.”

After graduation, Raineri plans to manage her aunt’s hair studio and work with children to help improve programs and academic opportunities for Latinos.