WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A student advocate at one local college is proud of her Hispanic background and she is focused on creating an inclusive environment for everyone on and off campus.

“My job here at the university, it’s a fold of many things,” stated Erica Acosta, director of diversity initiatives at Wilkes University.

Acosta is the director of diversity initiatives at Wilkes University where she serves as a secondary advisor to underrepresented minority students.

“Making sure they’re keeping up with their courses financial aid questions, making sure they are acclimating to the area,” said Acosta.

Acosta works to ensure Wilkes University is staying true to its mission and vision of incorporating diversity across campus. Diversity and inclusion training enlightens students to other cultures and traditions.

“I would train them on hey this is how we talk about diversity and inclusion when it talks about other different backgrounds that don’t normally look like ours,” described Acosta.

Over the past 11 years at Wilkes University, Acosta’s role has transformed and now includes focusing on community advocacy.

“I’m like ok this is where I’m meant to be because it doesn’t feel like work. Because I genuinely care about these topics, I care about the people, I care about connecting authentically with the individuals,” added Acosta.

And it shows. In 2021, Acosta served as the grand marshal of the 4th annual multicultural parade.

“I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. I come from a Dominican, Catholic household,” said Acosta.

Her parents came to the U.S. in the early 80’s. Family means everything to Acosta.

“I’m very family oriented. I love spending the different traditions with my family,” added Acosta.

Traditions she is now creating with her own family: Her 6 year-old daughter Elena and her husband Lenyn Muñoz. Together they celebrate their Hispanic heritage through food.

“So my favorite food is yuca, yuca is like tuber, it’s like cousins of the potato,” explained Acosta.

“My go-to’s are merengues like old school merengues, and art,” said Acosta.

When you step into Acosta’s office, you’ll notice many faceless dolls.

“Muñecas sin rostro, or muñecas sin cara. Native to the Dominican, basically is a doll without a face, meaning we all don’t have the same facial features or the eye color,” explained Acosta.

Erica celebrates her culture by traveling with students abroad to the Dominican Republic.

“So I normally take a group of twelve students, myself along with another chaperone and we’re there for a whole week doing community service. So I love to give back to my home country, as well as educate the students of the culture.”

She hopes through her teachings, students will follow her example and lead.

“Because it’s just opening the door to like look there’s other inequalities and this system wasn’t placed the same way for all of us to win, but you can help somebody win,” said Acosta.