Wallace State celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

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Dr. Paul J. Fontanez (Photos courtesy of WSCC)

 HANCEVILLE, Ala. — Wallace State Community College will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with events at both the main campus in Hanceville and at the Oneonta campus centers. 

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from Sept. 15 – Oct. 15 each year to recognize the countless contributions of more than 60 million Hispanic Americans to our culture and society. Hispanic Americans are the largest minority group in the United States today, and generations of Hispanic Americans have consistently helped make our country strong and prosperous. 

“Esparanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope” is the theme for 2021. It invites everyone to celebrate Hispanic Heritage and to reflect on how great tomorrow can be if we hold onto our resilience and hope. It also encourages us to reflect on all the contributions Hispanics have made in the past and will continue to make in the future.

An open house will be held on Oct. 12 from 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. at the Oneonta Technical Center (728 2nd Ave. SE). La Jefe 98.3 FM will be on location with music and remote broadcasts. Bounces houses, face painting and Chinito’s taco truck are included in the festivities. Free tacos will be given to the first 100 visitors. Tours of the technical center will also be available, and staff will be on hand from Admissions, Financial Aid, Advising, Dual Enrollment, Adult Education, Welding, Machine Tool Technology, Mechatronics, Diesel by Distance and the Center for Career and Workforce Development to discuss opportunities at Wallace State. The community is invited to attend. 

Wallace State will welcome Juan Chavez and Dr. Paul J. Fontanez to the Hanceville campus Oct. 11. Chavez will speak at 11:00 a.m. and Dr. Fontanez at 1:00 p.m., both in the Bailey Center Auditorium.  Chef Aaron Nichols and the Culinary Arts program will offer a chef’s demonstration of authentic scallop ceviche with tortilla crisps in the Bailey Center lobby. Chinito’s taco truck will also be on the main campus near the Bailey Center from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. The Wallace State Cafe and Culinary Arts Program will also offer Hispanic Heritage themed fare that week.  

A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Dr. Fontanez of Athens, is the Deputy Director for Architecture Assessment with the Missile Defense Agency, with whom he has served since 2005. 

He is a graduate of the State University of New York at Binghamton with a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics.  He also holds a Master of Science in Systems Management with honors (4.0 GPA) from Capitol Technical University, a Master of Science in Systems Engineering from George Washington University, a Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy with an emphasis in Economic Development from George Mason University and a Private Helicopter Pilot Certificate from Wallace State College.

Juan Chavez is a deputy with the Blount County Sheriff’s Office and a graduate of Wallace State, where he earned an associate degree in Engineering Technology before transferring to Faulkner University to earn a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. 

A 2015 graduate of Oneonta High School, Chavez told The Blount Countian he had thought about a career in law enforcement for some time, but it wasn’t until he found himself assisting local law enforcement and members of the Latino community as a translator that things changed. His efforts caught the attention of Blount County District Attorney Pamela Casey who suggested a career in law enforcement. He became the county’s first Latino deputy in 2018. 

“I believe this is what God wants me to do,” he said.

Juan Chavez (photo credit/The Blount Countian)