A couple months ago I was invited to apply for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Youth Leadership Institute. This is a summer program where you spend a couple nights at either Princeton University, University of Chicago, or University Southern California and spend the week talking about leadership and the importance of college. The official description is as follows:
YLI is a four-day, overnight, college empowerment conference for Latino high school juniors held at three top universities across the US. This highly selective program is designed to give young leaders the practical tools they need to successfully apply to top universities, have full access to scholarship and financial aid opportunities, and set a course for academic and career success. Attendees will enhance their leadership abilities and expand their professional networks by participating in college and career workshops, living on a college campus, and interacting with college students and professionals who serve as their mentors.
I thought it was a unique opportunity but I wasn’t fully convinced it was worth my time. My mom encouraged me to apply with the phrase “It can never hurt”, so I took her word for it and started my application. As part of the application process, I had to complete two essays, one of which I wanted to share. The only requirements were that the essay was to be 200-300 words and answer the given prompt. Hope you enjoy!
Prompt: Describe the world you come from – for example, your family, community, or school – and tell us how your Hispanic heritage shaped your life.
I come from a small immediate family but even so, from when I was young, my parents instilled in my sister and I a big desire and drive to go on adventures, travel, and to be open to trying new things. My Hispanic heritage greatly impacted my ability to fulfill these intentions. I grew up traveling to Peru sporadically, and even attending school for a month in Piura when I was six. Having the exposure to a culture so distinct to the one in America, substantially affected my outlook on life and my approach to things considered to be “weird” or “different”. I became more open, accepting, and less appalled by the differences in other cultures I encountered. I also have attended a small, private, Catholic school since kindergarten so I have always valued the importance of community. The sense of a tight-knit family was very familiar to me because of the abundance of relatives I have in Peru. Whether they are first cousins or tenth cousins, everyone acts like we are brothers and sisters. This mentality taught me to always be inclusive and kind to everyone I encounter. My Hispanic heritage also helps give me a break from the hustle and bustle of everything going on in my life. After experiencing the difference in cultures, I have learned to take some time every once in a while to appreciate everything that I have in life. Some of my most cherished memories are of my mom, singing and dancing to her favorite Hispanic music while cooking in the kitchen. I would run down and begin to show her my best moves. Life cannot get much better than forgetting our worries for a while so we can have some carefree time to embrace the loving moments of celebrating our Hispanic heritage together.