A Latina Experience at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
C2C Ketanny Alves
Squadron 40 “Warhawks”
Class of 2019 Secretary.
Growing up in an Irish Catholic neighborhood I started my journey at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in June of 2015; now as I approach the end of my first semester of junior year, I reflect on the opportunities USAFA has given me by recognizing my hard work and motivating me to finish strong. Hailing from Elizabeth, New Jersey, a densely Hispanic community, I found it was rather difficult transitioning to a place that was not at all like home. I was very much homesick during my first year here as our dining facility, Mitchell Hall, does not serve ceviche or arepas, staples my family incorporated into our daily life. The people I lived with did not speak “Spanglish” nor did they share the same traditions and customs. What made the biggest impression on me was the fact that many of my peers do not share the experience of being a first generation American. My transition from arriving to thriving at USAFA has not been easy, but this institute symbolizes the approach that allows me to overcome all barriers in my life.
USAFA doesn’t see color or tolerate discrimination against anyone. The diverse and accepting culture offers just and equal opportunities to all cadets based on their performance and work ethic alone. I pay tribute to my background, which makes my experience uniquely my own, by pursuing a major in Foreign Area Studies with a focus on Latin America, and completing two independent minors for two languages, Spanish and Portuguese. USAFA has presented me with so many opportunities that I could not have experienced anywhere else. The most memorable events were: marching and representing USAFA at the Inauguration Day Parade for the United States’ 45th President, traveling to both California and Louisiana during Spring Break to help build homes with Habitat for Humanity, meeting the U.S. Air Force’s first Latina general, marching and representing USAFA in the Colorado Springs Veteran’s Day Parade, and attending the 14th National Latina Symposium.
This past summer USAFA sent me and other cadets to learn and train alongside Military Training Instructors at Lackland Air Force Base, TX. This opportunity allowed me to learn more about the Air Force’s enlisted Basic Military Training and develop and shape my leadership style to implement both here at USAFA and in my active duty Air Force career. At USAFA, I am a member of the Hispanic Heritage Club which consists of Hispanic and non-Hispanic cadets that spend a great deal of time together learning about each other’s heritage and stories. Essentially, it provides me a way to experience a “home away from home” atmosphere as we are a tight knit community supporting one another through our shared appreciation of culture.
I proudly wear “U.S. Air Force” across my heart physically on my uniform, but I will always celebrate and continue to share my Ecuadorian and Portuguese roots within and through my actions every day. I take great pride in being a Latina at USAFA and it has been quite the privilege to tell people my story and all that I have learned.
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