The importance of a name: Melissa Mojica Cruz

Melissa Mojica Cruz (Eta Sigma Chapter, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke) has dedicated her career to helping others. Her love of service, her leadership roles in ZTA and her Hispanic heritage helped forge her path.

Both of Melissa’s parents are from Caguas, Puerto Rico. Growing up, Melissa’s parents were very intentional in teaching their children about their heritage and what it means for their personal identities.

“When we went to Puerto Rico, we visited not only family but also historical sites,” Melissa said.

UNC Pembroke offers many different fraternity/sorority organizations on its campus. From the beginning of her time at UNC Pembroke, Melissa knew she wanted to join a fraternal organization. Her older brother, a member of a men’s fraternity, spoke highly of the potential for leadership and told her that joining an organization was a quick way to meet people with similar values.

“There were even specific Latina sororities** I could have joined,” Melissa said. “But I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. I wanted to be around women who had different experiences than me. I felt like the women of ZTA were truly interested in getting to know me and how I could contribute to the chapter.”

For three years, Melissa held the position of Risk Reduction and Education Chair and was also elected chapter President her senior year.

Melissa was also a part of a Hispanic and Latinx student organization where she participated in a campus-wide cultural festival and performed traditional dances. Melissa’s ZTA sisters came to the event to support and continued showing their support on social media.

“They really made it a point to recognize and support all my accomplishments,” Melissa said.

Following tradition, Melissa has two separate (not hyphenated) last names. Her first last name, Mojica, comes from her mother’s side, and her other last name, Cruz, comes from her father’s side. She often finds that others only refer to one of the names.*

When Melissa joined ZTA, she noticed the name on her bid card omitted her first last name, Mojica. This omission sparked a conversation within her chapter about the importance of multiple last names in her culture.

“I brought up to the VP III that my bid card was incorrect, and from then on, everything was correct,” Melissa said. “For ZTA to make sure everything had my correct name really mattered to me. It's important to have these conversations and understand how something as simple as misusing or pronouncing a name can make someone feel."

Melissa Mojica Cruz

After receiving her undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work in 2020 and 2021, Melissa became a family-centered treatment therapist. Her understanding of the Spanish language has helped her in this new role, and she hopes to strengthen her Spanish skills to assist more families in need.

By continuing these conversations and facilitating more education on diversity and inclusion within our chapters and beyond, we can work together to create a stronger, more knowledgeable sisterhood. Melissa emphasized how proud of her chapter she was for always working toward those goals.

ZTA thanks Melissa for sharing her story during National Hispanic Heritage Month.

*This situation is an example of a microaggression. To learn more about microaggressions, visit ZTA’s My Sister, My Responsibility® program here.

**Zeta Tau Alpha recognizes and has begun to incorporate celebrating culturally oriented fraternities/sororities as a part of the DEI Strategic Plan. Read more on these efforts here and learn more about how to partner with organizations outside of National Panhellenic Conference.

All Zetas have their own identities, experiences and stories, and this blog shares the unique perspective of one member. While this blog may not encompass every Zeta’s identities or experiences, we hope it resonates with those who want to learn more about another member’s experience. If you are interested in sharing your story, contact us here.


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