Friends organize ‘Salsa for Sussi’
Lizard hosts dance to benefit WVU grad’s surgery
By Mackenzie Mays
Published: Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, July 28, 2010
A benefit will be held at De Lazy Lizard tonight at 8 to raise money for a West Virginia University grad’s necessary surgery in the form of her favorite hobby: a Latin dance party.
Susana Villanueva, known by her friends as Sussi, graduated from WVU last spring with a Master’s in Foreign Languages as an international student from Yucatan, Mexico, who dedicated her time to volunteering and served as vice president of Sigma Delta Pi, the Spanish honorary while holding a 4.0 GPA.
She is known most for her energetic personality and love for hosting dances and sharing a piece of her culture with the Morgantown area.
Last semester, Villanueva began having difficulties walking due to a problem in her spine and what appeared as a minor back problem developed into intense pain and impaired mobility, according to her friend Gary Laruta, a legal studies student at WVU and president of the International Students Organization.
"Because of her back problems, she struggled a lot to complete the master’s program and teach as a Spanish TA at the same time, but she successfully finished strong and graduated," Laruta said. "But of course it was very upsetting for her friends to not see her anymore at gatherings dancing."
Villanueva needs a $15,000 correctional spine operation called Spinal Normalisation, which uses new technology called a "Device for Intervertebral Assisted Motion (DIAM)" to treat back problems by allowing flexibility without the need for spinal fusion.
This perseverance is what has inspired friends of Villanueva’s like Jason Staples, a Training and Development Specialist with WVU’s Division of Human Resources who met her in 2008 during Diversity Week where she was volunteering to promote multi cultural awareness, to do their part in helping with her condition.
"Her desire to succeed and pursue her dream to graduate even when facing obstacles that would make most people give up is what has inspired me to take part," Staples said. "At the end of the Spring 2010 semester, even though she was in a lot of pain day and night and even though she was in a wheel chair and on crutches, she never quit smiling and she never gave up."
Villanueva graduated on time in May with the rest of her class and attended the graduation ceremony in her wheel chair and told Staples she didn’t want to miss out on the cultural experience of graduating as a Mountaineer.
Villanueva is modest about her accomplishments, like being named the national Mexican chess champion at the age of 13 and participating in the World Chess Championships in Linares, Spain, Bratislava, Slovakia and Brazil and is the first in her family to attain a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and learn a foreign language, and this humble attitude is what has attracted caring friends who want to help her to continue her success.
"She is truly very loving, friendly, helpful and bright. She has always worked hard for everything she’s accomplished even though she doesn’t talk much about her accomplishments," Staples said. "Sussi plans to continue to achieve her goals but this all depends on the surgery and her recovery."
Villanueva has received a scholarship to Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, to continue her education with a PhD in Modern Languages and Literature in the Fall.
"Morgantown is not a big city and that becomes a plus in terms of building a close community, a community that is there for each other and I guess that the message here," Laruta said. "Sussi has been responsible for many fun and happy memories for all of us, and even though she can’t currently do something that she loves to do like dance, we are going to salsa for Sussi."
The Salsa for Sussi benefit will take place in the VIP room of De Lazy Lizard at 8 p.m. All proceeds will be donated to the financial costs of her surgery.
******************************************************************At first I thought it might be a chess scholarship, but it doesn't seem so --
I found the following information about Ms. Villaneuva at chess femme Claudia Munoz's website (translated to English by Google) - thanks Claudia for publicizing Ms. Villaneuva's plight:
SUMMARY OF COMPETITIVE HISTORY OF CHESS IN YUCATAN
-- First female youth player to participate and excel in chess tournaments at the level of adults and youth in state history in the Yucatan 1989
-- 4 years consecutive gold medals brought Yucatan national chess champion. 1991-1994 1991-1994
-- Representative of Mexico's Olympic team in the world in Linares, Spain, 1992
-- Representative of Mexico at the world championships in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, 1993
-- Representative of Mexico at the Pan American Games in Brazil two consecutive years, 1994 and 1995
-- First woman to win the state award of the sport in 1993 Yucatán
-- First Yucatan in serving as arbitrator interpreter translator bilingual teachers and international players in the International Chess Tournament "Carlos Torre Repetto" in Merida, 2003 and 2004