It’s the fall of my senior year, which means between classes and trips to Starbucks, a bigger question is always on my mind: Where will I be when I grow up? I’ve put on my suit, tweaked my resume, and even started networking with graduate schools and other programs. But among all of my anxiety and concern, I nearly missed the most important job opening. Who is our next national Latino leader?
In a recent Pew survey, nearly 64 percent of Hispanic adults could not name the most important Latino leader in the country today. Another 10 percent believed there isn’t a strong national Latino leader.
In the coming generation, Latinos will have an increasingly important role in our nation. It’s estimated that the Hispanic population of the U.S. will more than triple in the next 50 years. This means we’ll need strong, committed leaders to take action for our communities. Stepping into the shoes of Caesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, and the great leaders who came before us is certainly intimidating as college students. But if our generation doesn’t act with this in mind, who will?
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity
to attend Teach For America’s LatinoLeadership Summit in New York City. Alongside more than 38 students representing colleges and universities across the region, we shared our stories and discussed the strength that exists within our communities. As we talked, we could see how far each of us had come, the significant challenges we had to overcome to be successful.
From our own stories, we then focused our attention on the current Latino education crisis. College completion rates among Latinos are the lowest of any demographic group – only 14.5 percent receive a bachelor’s degree by age 25. Walking away from the summit, I feel a tremendous charge to change these statistics for my community. I also recognize the ways in which my heritage makes me powerfully poised to serve others.
Together, these experiences informed my decision to bring my unique perspective and identity to a classroom next year. Whether or not the country ever knows my name, I want to make a difference in education. I want to show students that anyone can rise above the challenges we face. Easy? No. Possible? Absolutely.
After meeting my fellow summit participants, I know I will not be alone in taking on this work. With 3,000 Latino corps members and alumni, Teach For America is one of many organizations building a force of outstanding Latino leadership answering the call to fight for social justice in the classroom. Working alongside these leaders, I am proud to be part of an organization that partners with diverse organizations and communities to advocate for students.
There are many more milestones ahead of us as seniors. But the biggest challenge ahead is to not only understand our identities, but to leverage them for our communities. There are many jobs and many pathways we can take next year, but the most important one is still open. I hope you’ll join me in this charge.
Grip is a member of
the class of 2015.