I thought my life was pretty normal as a child. But as children we don’t see the black & white side of the world because we are too focused on the colors. That is, until you grow older and realize that every circumstance and obstacle you went through may have been easier or nonexistent for others but not so much for you. As you grow, you start to realize who you are and start caring about how people perceive you. The issues you ignored are now starting to matter and you begin to wonder about all the identities you withhold. It is only when judgement and discrimination impact you when you come to realize how different you are. These are because of several identities you possess such as your race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, ability, religious or political affiliations, etc. I started to realize that I did not have the same privileges as others in high school because I was/am considered a first-generation, low-income, Mexican female student. My teenage years were filled with constant evaluations of myself to see if I was good enough to fit in or be a part of a group. But when you realize you are different, you also realize how people treat you differently. Everyday is now filled with surprises that include discovering people you’ve grown up with now chanting “Make America Great Again”. Except you’re not filled with hatred for people who are ignorant of real world issues. You are more mad at the hierarchal structure that bounds to keep minorities where they’re at… at the bottom. We all have many individual identities but some cause more harm than others. I’ve always assumed that people look for people who look like them and if they don’t, they just don’t care and disregard them.
Although I knew of these issues back in high school, I never thought that my identities would be emphasized as greatly as it has in college. I think it is a good thing because now I can finally fight for myself and defend my human rights. I have begun to put pieces back together to chain what is now named adversity, including the challenges that I have faced. I always grew up thinking we all went through the same obstacles with different circumstances; something I would do to justify what I went through. But now, this newly lit fire inside of me wants to scream out and tell every little person that they matter and they shouldn’t base their decisions on others or let them influence their lives. My passion to work with people and listen to their stories have become a way for me to stay content about giving back. I’ve always wanted to give back and inspire the community that gave me the most. It is only through hearing their voices that we can advocate for them. As a kid, I thought I could help the whole world but I’ve realized to do so, it starts with one person at a time.
It was when I found The National Forum (on Higher Education for the Public Good) that I became aware of the resources and support that exist on campus. This wonderful place welcomes everyone, especially the people that do not have a voice and have been ignored for so long. Working at The National Forum has not only been eye-opening, but also very informative in its research project process. I have learned about the many hurdles and obstacles that minorities face regarding access and support to higher education. The Forum’s objectives are to inform and help shape policy through their advocacy, allowing students equal open access to educational rights and assistance. I have learned through my staff and student network that student advocacy is just as important as any national movement or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative. Just last year, I attended an Undocumented Student Rally in front of the Fleming Administration building. I was shocked to see that our advocacy efforts were effective when the University responded to our 7 demands by establishing immediate change to accessible online information and a designated staff member for undocumented students. It was then that I knew even students have the power to change policy and shape the world that we live in, from one college campus or community to another.