Latinx Heritage Month: For Benny Heredia '23, Internship Sets Scene for Film Career

Latinx Heritage Month: For Benny Heredia '23, Internship Sets Scene for Film Career

Latinx Heritage Month: For Benny Heredia '23, Internship Sets Scene for Film Career

In honor of Latinx Heritage Month, John Jay—a Hispanic-Serving Institution—proudly celebrates the many ways in which our Latinx students enrich our diverse community. As part of our LHM celebration, we connected with Latinx students to learn more about their identity, experiences, and hopes for the future.

Benny Heredia ’23 grew up in Queens, New York, enjoying an idyllic childhood in Jackson Heights. “Life was really simple back then. I lived on a quiet block and was always out playing with my friends. At all my baseball games, I’d see my family in the stands cheering for me,” says Heredia, a criminology major and film studies minor. “My parents worked hard to give my sister and me a good life. Since neither of them were citizens—they’re from Puebla, Mexico—they spent most of their time trying to provide for our family. As I grew up, I really started to understand all their sacrifices and hard work. It’s made me admire them immensely.” Now, Heredia hopes to become a filmmaker one day and share the stories of people like his parents. 

After securing an internship at the American Museum of Natural History, Heredia found a wealth of creative connections. “The internship has opened doors for me and I’ve met a lot of people working in films. I was even able to produce and direct a short film about a research class,” he says. “As a film studies minor, I’m enjoying taking classes both on the conceptual side and the hands-on side. This semester I’m taking acting and digital media production. It’s fascinating learning how to produce videos and effectively tell stories through media.”

How do you celebrate your Latinx heritage?
Throughout the year, my mom loves to make Mexican food—especially during the Mexican holidays. During Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), our extended family comes over to enjoy a little taste from home. My mom makes our favorite dish called pozole, which is a traditional Mexican soup. We also play a lot of Spanish music and make ofrendas (offerings) for our loved ones who have passed. Sometimes we’ll watch movies with Spanish-led actors. Seeing Mexicans in Hollywood films always puts smiles on our faces.

“Knowing that John Jay is an HSI makes me really proud to be Latino and it gives me hope for a more inclusive society.” —Benny Heredia ’23

What has your experience been like at John Jay?
I came to John Jay because my sister, Emily, had such a good experience as a John Jay student. She graduated in 2020 and always told me about her interesting psychology classes. I decided to follow in her footsteps and I’m really glad I did. When I started taking classes I began to see how diverse the school was and it helped me embrace my Latino identity. Knowing that John Jay is an HSI makes me really proud to be Latino and it gives me hope for a more inclusive society.

How has John Jay deepened the pride in your Latinx identity?
Being part of the ACE Program has helped enrich my Latinx identity. There’s a strong sense of community in the program and a lot of students who look like me and share a similar family background. Everyone is proud of their heritage and they’re motivated to be successful. The enthusiasm that other ACE students have about their identity and career goals has really inspired me to push myself. Every year since I was a freshman, I’ve made the Dean’s List. I see it as a reminder to keep my academic career on track and honor all that my parents have given me.

One professor that really stands out to me is Yolanda Ortiz-Rodriguez. She taught two classes I was in and I really enjoyed how she drew connections to her life as a Latina. She’d always bring up different challenges Latinx people faced or contributions Latinx people made into our class topics. Having a professor who is Latinx, and uses her experiences in a classroom setting, felt truly inspiring and authentic.

“Meeting others who are also Latinx, and learning more about my parents’ life stories, has made me extremely proud to be Mexican.” —Benny Heredia ’23

Why is it important to celebrate Latinx Heritage Month?
It helps us take pride in our heritage. When I was young, I was always a little embarrassed by my Mexican background because I felt like I didn’t have the luxurious life most of my classmates had. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized how special and important my heritage is. Meeting others who are also Latinx, and learning more about my parents’ life stories, has made me extremely proud to be Mexican. Celebrating Latinx Heritage month has brought me closer to my family and my identity.