Unidos adviser Maria Contto shares vision behind Latino Heritage Month

Maria Contto, Unidos adviser, encourages students to learn about cultural differences.


Tyler Otte

Current faculty member and alumni Maria Contto is the adviser of the Unidos Club. | Tyler Otte/THE CHIMES

Tonika Reed, Writer

Current faculty member and alumni Maria Contto is the adviser of the Unidos Club. | Tyler Otte/THE CHIMES

Maria Contto, a Biola alumna and faculty member, is very intentional about building solid relationships within Biola’s community. She serves as the adviser for Unidos, a club on campus that celebrates what it means to be Latino within a Christian community, and is sponsoring Latino Heritage Month.

“I feel like I have a unique role, different from being a student,” Contto said. “I get to continue sharing who I am as a Latina, and that way I can also help my colleagues to understand students that are Latina.”

Students and administration collaborate to plan events

The president and vice president of the Unidos club have been hard at work to plan the events for this month.

“Lety Trujllo and Erika Sanchez have been leading this up by being the heads of the club, there are student volunteers, and MEPD [Multiethnic Programs and Development] gives us good information and good direction,” Contto said.

The events are not only student led, but the authoritative figures of the university have also had roles in the formation of the month’s celebrations.

“The university itself is also hosting events by way of president Barry Corey and the new vice provost Doretha O’Quinn,” Contto said. “It’s not just the club’s idea; it’s something we as a university believe in, getting to know your neighbor.”

Contto gives back to Biola community

Having parents that are very active within ministry as well as missions in South America, Contto grew up in a Peruvian household that always recognized the glory of God.

Contto attended a Christian high school on scholarship. After she graduated, Contto moved to Biola, which was an answer to prayers. She heard about Biola through a teacher at her high school who encouraged her to pursue her big dream of attending a Christian university.

Knowing Biola would be a financial burden, she trusted that God would bring her through if he truly wanted her here. By the grace of God, Contto was able to attend.

Upon graduating, Contto knew she wanted to devote to educating students in the Lord at her beloved Biola community.

“Well, I graduated as a psych major in ‘02, and then started working here because I wanted to give back,” Contto said. “I was also honored to be asked to [work as the] adviser for the Latino club here.”

Thrilled to be advising a club and working in an environment that glorifies God, Contto is content. She also works as the coordinator for data management.

“I am also blessed to be able to share my spiritual life with my colleagues, that is an experience you couldn’t get anywhere else,” Contto said. “I get joy out of telling my story, because it makes the workings of God more known.”

God reflected in different cultures

As a whole, Contto sees Biola as a place for students to learn how to be the church through the process of storytelling and fellowship.

“Like everything else, as Christians we should learn about each other,” Contto said. “Cultural difference is something we should learn from one another … To be the church is to learn from one another’s differences. There is richness in that. To live in a unity, that takes forming. It takes us being intentional.”

Contto also knows that learning about other people’s cultures can be uncomfortable to some, but to her it seems commonplace.

“I think this month should be a kickoff of people learning about Latino culture, and a time to learn about how God is ultimately reflected within each culture,” Contto said. “It’s not about the month itself, it’s about learning.”

Students easily get stuck within the monotony of their own way of doing things and that hinders growth.

“We are used to how our family did family and how our church did church,” Contto said.

While Cocina Latina, a family style dinner that contained various Latin foods, was an exciting time for the Biola community, Contto is excited about the events still to come. These events include a chapel series on Perspectives in Latino Faith, Sept. 28-30, held in various locations on campus, as well as Reconciliation chapel on Oct. 6 and Latino worship night in Crowell Auditorium on Oct. 14.

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