Diversity and Unity Are Not Mutually Exclusive in Higher Education

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Diversity and Unity Are Not Mutually Exclusive in Higher Education

Mentors, Fellows, and Scholars at the closing of the 2019 Chicago HSF Youth Leadership Institute.

Mentors, Fellows, and Scholars at the closing of the 2019 Chicago HSF Youth Leadership Institute.

Mentors, Fellows, and Scholars at the closing of the 2019 Chicago HSF Youth Leadership Institute.

Mentors, Fellows, and Scholars at the closing of the 2019 Chicago HSF Youth Leadership Institute.

Mariana Bravo

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     Being Hispanic has been an immense part of my identity for a long time, seeing as I moved to Miami from Colombia only a couple years ago and was lucky enough to eventually find a home not too different from the one I’d left behind. What I failed to realize, however, is that the Latinx community here in Miami is a fairly homogenous one, as many of its inhabitants are themselves either first or second generation Hispanic immigrants, with stories much like my own. It became easy for me to assume that this Latinx identity was relatively prevalent among the Hispanic community of the United States, as it was what I’d seen since my first day here. However, my mind was completely changed the second I stepped foot in the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Youth Leadership Institute at the University of Chicago this past Wednesday. 

     The Hispanic Scholarship Fund, recognized as the nation’s leading Hispanic scholarship organization, is a body that strives to make higher education simple and accessible for the Hispanic community of the United States, providing a plethora of resources to its scholars both before and during the college process. Ranging from hour-long to almost week-long, the HSF’s programs aim to inform students about the world of knowledge surrounding higher education, and its immense network of scholars serves as a window of support in the real world. Moreover, the fund’s HSF Scholarship, given to hundreds of individuals each year, helps low-income, skilled members of the Latinx community afford the education they dream of obtaining. 

     Having had the privilege of experiencing the fund’s Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) this past week, I can testify to the fact that the Hispanic community here in our nation is not homogenous in the least, but instead a multifaceted body encompassed by some of the most hardworking, intelligent, and incredible individuals of this century. It was a true honor not only to be selected to participate in the program and to be named a Hispanic Scholar, but to have been able to share such an experience with such an outstanding group of people—individuals who, in a remarkably short time, managed to become my familia. Much to my surprise, I quickly found myself submerged in the astoundingly diverse definition of what it means to be Hispanic. Not in a million years had I envisioned that so much diversity could exist within a single group of people, and that an image that had for so long been stimulated and formulated to fit a stigma of pre-established characteristics, could in fact deviate so greatly from the norm of the status quo. Throughout the program’s duration, not only was I able to learn copious amounts about the college application and admissions process, but I was able to develop friendships and relationships that will serve as foundations for my social network in the years to come. I was able to witness first hand exactly how our individual characteristics, rather than make us different, actually make us all similar, and thus provide a driving force for the ideas of unity and community

     More directly, the YLI aims to provide its participants with the resources and skill-sets necessary to apply, get accepted, and attend their dream universities. Through a myriad of activities, presentations, forums, and conversations, the program seeks to instill in its attendees the true meaning behind the popularly coined phrase “Si Se Puede!” or “it can be done:” a popular Hispanic saying that has served to motivate generations upon generations of Latinos around the world. In my experience, the program managed to clarify the otherwise normally confusing and vast collection of information that tends to surround the concept of applying and attending college. This can be especially difficult for Hispanic immigrants with no clear knowledge of the American higher education system, as they may have no experience with what it means to apply or get accepted. However, the beauty of the program was not only the way that it managed to both enlighten and empower its attendees to an exorbitant extent, but the fact that, during all of this, it managed to establish in all its participants a sense of community unlike any other I’d ever experienced before. In the short span of four days, I managed to build bonds that likened those I’d been constructing for years back home, and that served to me as a reminder that, no matter how different its people may look, the Hispanic community is one flooded with kindness, selflessness, and camaraderie. The program showed me that being a Latina is not simply a title, but instead a representation of my power as a spokesperson for an entire people. The Hispanic community is much larger than its separate parts—it is instead a greater mass that extends as a powerful network worldwide; it is a web of emotion, perseverance, and willingness, that serves as living proof of how we are truly able to achieve anything we set our minds to. 

     This past week provided me with an incredibly powerful look at the microcosm of the Hispanic community that is the young Latinx generation of the United States, and filled me with hope that we as one will accomplish great things in this nation’s future. It taught me, superficially, about what I have to do to get into a good college, but, more deeply, it taught me about the value of partnership and the power that togetherness can have on bettering our society each and every day. The YLI taught me that there is no “one way” to look or be Latina, and that each and every way is perfectly okay. It taught me that I am just a part of a whole, and that it is my responsibility to work my hardest to ensure that I continue to embody and represent the characteristics that give such a whole its distinction. It showed me that hard work is not only wanted but needed when it comes to dreaming about a great future, and it taught me that, at the end of the day, I truly am blessed and privileged to have a familia that spans the lengths of the globe. Blood may be thick, but sometimes good condiments, heavy accents, and outstanding dance skills—in all their shapes and forms—may really just be thicker.  


The YLI is a program that serves to inform and empower Hispanic students who have just finished their junior year of high school and are seeking guidance in the college admissions process. It is completely free and available to any student of Hispanic background, and guarantees not only vast knowledge but a remarkable network of scholars in the Latinx community. For more information, visit HSF.net, or contact Mariana Bravo (Baitline Copy Editor and Author) at [email protected]