Without a doubt, I credit who I am as a leader and professional in large part to my undergraduate education in Latina/Latino Studies. As a Policy Analyst at Health & Medicine Policy Research Group with master’s degrees in social work and public health, I research and advocate for policies that prevent and mitigate the systemic root causes of trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in Illinois. My LLS background has been indispensable throughout my graduate education and now in my current role. Learning about topics such as Critical Race Theory and the impact of U.S. policy on Latinx populations has equipped me with the skills to unpack how the origins of trauma and health inequities are shaped by the broader sociopolitical and historical context, allowing me to more effectively strategize policy solutions from a decolonized, ant-racist lens. As the public health and social work fields grapple with the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing racial injustice, I know that my LLS expertise helps fill an enormous gap that is still largely present in these areas. Additionally, in my part-time roles as a bilingual therapist and working with community organizers at Telpochcalli Community Education Project (Tcep) in Little Village, Chicago, my training in LLS has been a key tool for engaging my clients with cultural humility and building critical consciousness at the grassroots level as a method for organizing on issues affecting Latinx Chicagoans.
Perhaps most importantly, LLS provided me a community that made me feel validated and worthy as a first-generation Latina and the first to attend college in my family, in a way that no other space on campus did. The unconditional support, safety, and mentorship offered to me by Dr. Alicia Rodriguez, Dr. Sandra Ruiz, Dr. Edna Viruell-Fuentes and others are the reason I was able to graduate. Their impact on my life and the lessons I learned in my LLS courses continue to be influential and empowering for me as I navigate the world as a Latina. I will cherish this forever!