â€śThe chair you are sitting on is the same sort you will be sitting on when you graduate from Ohio State University (OSU). Weâ€™ll all be there too, cheering you on.â€ť I remember when Keith Lofton said this during my interview for The Young Scholars Program (YSP). I was in the sixth grade and my mami was right next to me listening to him explain the program. I didnâ€™t then realize the importance of this interview.
Being in YSP meant attending meetings after an already long school week, getting extra homework, and associating with people I didnâ€™t know. Eventually, though, I began to understand how significant this program is. YSP gave me the opportunity to build lifelong friendships with other scholars and provided a support system that has been my backbone since sixth grade. As scholars from the nine largest urban school districts in the state of Ohio, we were expected to maintain a B average throughout middle and high school and upon graduation we would receive a scholarship to attend Ohio State University. Being a part of this program is truly a blessing for my family and me. Without the help of Mr. Lofton (Iâ€™m old enough to call him Keith now) and all of the amazing people Iâ€™ve met through the program, I do not know who I would be today.
Since attending OSU had been a goal since sixth grade, when I received my acceptance letter I couldnâ€™t help but think, â€śItâ€™s about time.â€ť I packed everything imaginable, especially things that would remind me of homeâ€”the Aventura CD my mom played every Sunday as she cleaned the house, pictures of my family, and of course the â€śproperâ€ť seasonings for food: adobo, sazĂłn, and sofrito. When it was time to leave for OSU I remember looking around my neighborhood and thinking about how much I would miss it. I was right.
As I set foot on campus for the first time, something hit me full force. These individuals were different from me. I wanted to leave, return to my comfort zone full of Puerto Rican food and Spanish music. I remember meeting my roommates and feeling as though I could never fit in. My high school had been predominately Black and Hispanic so being a â€śminorityâ€ť was never a concern. But now I felt like the spotlight was on me because I was different. Those early conversations with my roommates make me laugh now, but at the time I felt isolated, as though my new friends only excused my behavior because I was a â€śghetto Puerto Ricanâ€ť from Cleveland. Once, I was introduced to a friend of theirs from back home and when I made a comment they both laughed as my suitemate explained, â€śPlease excuse her, sheâ€™s urban.â€ť They thought less of me for reasons I didnâ€™t fully understand. They questioned my nameplate jewelry, the Fabuloso I used to clean the floor, and the â€śaccentâ€ť I didnâ€™t even know I had. Eventually I was able to teach them about my culture and where I came from. They learned about how close I am to my family and they began to understand where my independent and goal oriented nature came from.
Throughout the last two years of my college career, I have been actively involved in raising Hispanic awareness across campus. My friends and I have even started an organization called Mujeres Unidas in an attempt to bring the first Latina based sorority to Ohio Stateâ€™s campus. I am honored to represent my culture as a strong, independent, Puerto Rican woman.
I am excited to take my knowledge of overcoming adversities to my future students, making them proud of the people they are while helping them become the people they want to be.