Currently, 14.4 million Latinas call the United States home, a number which is expected to increase since Hispanics are the fastest-growing minority in the country. With this dramatic change in demographics has come America's preparation for the energy and passion of young Latinos to take center stage, especially as we continue to harness our political power for issues critical to our community.
I was 13 years old when I moved to the U.S. from Queretaro, Mexico. Due to my language barrier, I felt uncomfortable having conversations, and I was scared to speak up. I had the opportunity to step up when I was a freshman in high school and LULAC came to recruit youth members.
I was aware that I would expose my language deficiency, unveiling my inability to implement the complex sentence structure and irregular verb conjugation so characteristic of the English language. Instead of shying from the opportunity, however, I firmly decided to take a risk and, swallowing my fear, accepted their offer. From there, ten girls and I started a youth council of which I was Vice President.
At first, I would hold our meetings in Spanish until, gradually, I felt more comfortable to transition some, and eventually all, of our meetings to English. I worked with higher LULAC officials to coordinate the Northeast Regional Conference, which demonstrated women embracing their leadership positions. I felt confident that I could mirror their achievements. My experience gave me the courage to lean further into the higher rungs of the LULAC leadership. I no longer felt incapable of speaking with others – I learned new vocabulary, improved my English, and felt reassured to branch out into areas well out of my comfort zone.
After a couple months, others recognized my capabilities and elected me Council President. Under my leadership, our council expanded, and membership increased to 40 members in one year. Later in the year, I became District Director and ascended into a position on the national board as Vice President of Publicity. In July of 2011, I was elected National Youth President.
I took a chance in accepting that first position with LULAC, and from the experience, I have found within me an indomitable spirit that enjoys the triumph of overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
I now relish asking questions in class and participating in school assignments, which, before leaning into leadership, was impossible. If I am on a LULAC assignment or spearheading a new program, I am not afraid to take charge. I went to my first national convention in Odessa, Texas, and was not scared to talk to prospective sponsors to encourage scholarship investment. Nothing is impossible. Overall, I was just ambitious – I wanted to make things happen. And that’s what I’m doing right now – making things happen.