The hard work of four young women at the University of Central Arkansas has finally paid off.

After fulfilling the requirements needed and working endlessly to meet specific standards, the four founders of Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, Inc. (SIA), Alejandra Cuellar, Soledad Flores, Karla Ventura Canas and Abigail Galicia Romero were part of a new member presentation ceremony April 9 hosted by the university in honor of the Latina sorority coming to campus.

SIA, previously the campus organization Sisters In Action, which was started in hopes to unit Latina students at UCA together, is the first Latina sorority at the public college and the second in the state of Arkansas.

The Latina sorority follows the first UCA Latino fraternity, Phi Iota Alpha, started in December 2016.

Karla Ventura Canas, the president of the new sorority, said the significance of the moment hit the group of girls the day of the presentation when they were practicing.

"We realized it [was] happening, she said. "[That] tomorrow, I can wear my letters and tomorrow I can walk into campus with pride and be like I worked for this and really hope for you guys to follow the path. That felt like oh my gosh … it was like you have a huge backpack with a bunch of rocks inside of it and you’re carrying it and you just like [release] a lot of weight."

Canas said establishing the sorority — which is open to all demographics, not just Latinas — was hard.

She said the biggest struggle the founders faced during the process was trying to put in the work to establish SIA while trying to keep up their academics and their commitments. Canas said there were many times they wanted to quit, but recognized the significance of pressing forward for the future generations of Latinas who might come to the campus.

"My parents were always telling me that I couldn’t just quit … that the girls needed me," she said. "We always pushed each other."

Now, the fun part of finally having the organization at UCA and getting it up and running begins, Canas said.

She said the diversity that already exists in the group is encouraging and she hopes that the sorority will bridge the gap across campus between Latinas and non-Latinas.

"We want to establish it well [for] the future hermanas or whoever wants to join," she said. "I personally feel like to me this is the legacy. To me, I put the time and the effort to be a part of the founders and help my hermanas out from my same line to be a part of it."

Canas said she hopes other women at UCA take advantage of the opportunity to be a part of a sorority that supports each other — a home away from home for students, especially international students like her — while serving it’s community and bringing awareness to different cultures.

"We wear our letters with honor, because we earned that," she said.

UCA Associate Vice President of Communications Christina Madsen is the advisor for SIA.

"I am very honored that they reached out to me and I’m very proud of my own Hispanic heritage, my mother is from Chile, so it was a perfect fit," she said. "I am so proud of these ladies not only for being great UCA students but for their strong commitment to their Latina backgrounds and this sorority."