Written by: Angie Espinoza, Caminos al Futuro 2022
Throughout the past three weeks in the Caminos al Futuro program, we have heard the GW Cisneros Institute be referred to as a familia. Being that we would only be together for three weeks, the concept of us being a family seemed very foreign to me. How could 16 strangers, all from different backgrounds and cities come together and find such connection with each other?
Many of us come from predominantly white communities—communities where we struggle to identify ourselves and connect with the people that make up our schools and surrounding communities. With that, I came to this program eager to connect with other Latinx people—speaking Spanglish and debating silly things, like whether the correct term is chévere or bacano—it’s chévere, obviously. Together, we connected over the things that bring us together and, in class, learned to understand and navigate the things that have been socially constructed to divide us as Latinos. What has been interesting, though, is the way we have all been open to learning, through conversation, about how to close those divisions and be more inclusive with our identities, ideologies and, overall, more open minded about what it means to be Latinx in the United States, as we recognize that we are each living unique experiences.
Due to unprecedented circumstances, our third week of classes were done via Zoom, but I feel like it is challenges, such as this one, that test the limits of our relationships. However, I genuinely feel we came together and supported each other to take the most advantage out of the Caminos program.
Bringing the concept of familia full circle, the alumni of the Caminos program joined Dr. Vaquera for a ‘college advice’ session where we created a safe space to ask questions about attending college, ranging from being minority students in PWIs to navigating homesickness and imposter syndrome. At this point, I realized that the Caminos program is a multi-generational familia, with family members of all ages and backgrounds who were touched by this program. For me, Caminos has become a place where I have grown to appreciate that there would always be someone in my corner with a unique perspective to ask advice, share my fears, laugh, or (sometimes) cry with.
Most importantly, I learned that we, as Latinxs, will always occupy space and that we must use our voices and knowledge to uplift ourselves and the community.
Angie Espinoza is a Caminos al Futuro 2022 scholar. Angie’s views are her own and not necessarily reflective of the Cisneros Institute.