Sabrina’s Story:
Latina Student Reflects on the Value of Shared Cultural Identity

By: R.D. Leyva

Nationwide, Latino students make up one quarter of the school-aged population. Yet, Latinos continue to be under-represented in leadership roles throughout the education sector.

At Latinos for Education, we believe educational equity will be achieved through a shared vision and deliberate collaboration. We each have a role to play to ensure the voices of Latino students and families is heard and factored into decision-making in schools, communities and education institutions.

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we are featuring a four-part video series highlighting voices working together to navigate, challenge and remove barriers to Latino educational success. Education provides an opportunity for students to fulfill their dreams and through this video series, we will hear about the importance of increasing Latino leaders in positions of influence as a way to ensure all students are better served.

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Read Sabrina’s full interview to learn more about why Latino leadership in education matters.

Featured Latino Voice
Sabrina, 15 years old
Student at Abbott Lawrence Academy, Lawrence, MA

What do you look for in a role model?
When I think of a role model, I think of someone who has gone through tough times. Somebody who has pushed through to get to where they are today.

Who did you look up to when you were growing up?
My mother. She came from Peru as a single mother and had to communicate in a new language. She sacrificed a lot in order for me and my two sisters to become successful. She is also the one who brought me closer towards my Peruvian roots. My mom worked hard every single day to put food on the table, to put a roof over my head, and do everything that I need to succeed. Because of that, I’ve always felt the need to push harder and persevere.

Are there any Latinos in your school and community?
I grew up in Lawrence, Massachusetts. In Lawrence we are predominantly Latino, specifically Dominican. At Abbott Lawrence Academy, my friends and peers are mostly Latino so we all understand each other and are connected to one another. We mostly speak Spanglish. Currently, my school only has three people of color as part of their staff. It was also like that growing up, so I never really had a cultural connection with my teachers.

Have you ever had a Latino/a teacher?
When I came into middle school I found out what it was like to have a Latina teacher. As a student, I always felt like there was something missing. Now I know that it was that cultural relationship that we Latinas have. It was such a good feeling to know that my teacher knew how I felt. She added a Latina perspective to everything. Before her, I never thought I could connect with my teachers.

What is one thing that you learned from your Latino/a teacher?
Besides science, my teacher taught me to be a proud Latina. My mom would always tell me to learn Spanish, “Sabrina, aprende por favor,” but in school, I was always so focused on learning English, that I didn’t think I could ask my mom for help.  My mom would often get frustrated because of the language barrier and also the cultural barrier which blocked us from having that school relationship. I never accepted being a Latina and never knew about the prejudices against the Latinx community until I had a Latina teacher.  

What is one message you want to share with the Latino community?
Keep pushing, keep trying, because it’s worth it. A lot of people are not motivated to finish high school, in my high school there’s a high dropout rate. And It’s really sad to see that. An organization like Latinos for Education can motivate students to do better. Education is important, it is the best way out of poverty and for me, education is the way for my mom to not have to worry about our future.

R.D. serves as the Program Director at L4E. He leads the talent work to connect L4E members to high-impact roles, professional development opportunities and other Latino leaders across the country. He lives in Washington, DC.