[Latina] Girl Meets World: Deserving My Spot at an Elite Insititution

It is unbelievable to me that we are already way past the halfway point of the semester and that in just two weeks, final papers and exams will be taking the campus by storm. These past three months, I have had the blessing of meeting amazing students and faculty members that have truly made Haverford feel like home for me. Nearly a year ago, I stepped foot on this campus for the first time during the Multicultural Scholars Experience weekend and since then, Haverford feels like the place where I can contribute to the community as much as the community can contribute to the building of my character. However, even though I have loved my time at Haverford, sometimes I wonder if I deserve all the opportunities that are being presented to me. In the back of my mind, I wonder if the only reason I am here is because of affirmative action. From articles against affirmative action to the racist bake sale held by the Young Conservatives at UT Austin, students across the country are fighting against affirmative action because of its supposedly unfair treatment. It is actions like these that make me question my spot at Haverford and cause me to feel like I am only here because of the color of my skin.

For many people of color at elite institutions, there are many factors that can make us feel like we are only here to help out our institutions’ diversity statistics. Nowadays, a school without diversity is not viewed favorably, so logically, institutions are reaching out to more and more students of color. Diversity allows for colleges to have students from different types of backgrounds to come together and learn not only during class, but also from each other. Although I do believe lots of institutions engage in affirmative action because they truly believe in the benefits, in the back of my mind, I sometimes think that it is only done for institutions to not appear racist.  This is why I sometimes feel like I was only accepted because of my Mexican-American, low-income background. And people’s hurtful comments about affirmative action and financial aid, not only at other campuses but even here at Haverford as well, sting because it is as if the challenges I have faced to be in this position are being invalidated.

I did not come from a privileged background; I come from a small Latinx community that has to deal with violence, low-paying jobs, and citizenship status on a daily basis. I did not have the same opportunities many of my classmates did, and I had many responsibilities they did not. I cannot afford to major in Creative Writing or Journalism, which are some of my greatest passions, because in the back of my mind, I remember that I have to pursue a career that will be able to sustain both my family and myself. There are many other challenges I have had to face, but my point is, getting to where I am has not been an easy journey. I had to work twice as hard just to be able to get halfway to where my more privileged classmates are. But now I am here, and there are people saying that I do not deserve to be here because my SAT scores were not as high as theirs or because I have never done research or internships. If they only knew the reasons why I could not have these things, then maybe they would not believe that I am only here because Spanish is my native language.

Through a lot of introspection and discussions with other people of color, I have finally found peace in this idea of deserving to be here. It goes back to what I said during my admissions interview just a year ago: “I want to change the community, I want to make a difference.” That is why I was accepted.That is why I deserve to be here too. Because regardless of where I come from, I can make a difference at Haverford, just like any of my classmates. And it is the pursuit of trying to make the community better that is why I chose to come here, and why Haverford took the chance of accepting me. The financial aid Haverford has presented me has evened  the playing field, giving me opportunities that I otherwise could not afford. And while I am thankful that Haverford has given me financial aid, I do not need to thank anyone for it. I do not need to thank my full-tuition paying classmates because I deserved the chance to have the playing field evened out. If Haverford truly wants to make institution a diverse campus with people from different and unique backgrounds, then it is Haverford’s responsibility to offer the aid needed to bring more diverse individuals to campus. And now, I have to make the most out of it.I was not insincere during my interview when I said I wanted to make a difference in the community. It sounds like just another prospective student trying to make themselves look good to admissions counselors. I meant what I said a year ago, and that is why I am trying my best to address issues at Haverford. During my Students’ Council First-Year Representative campaign, I stated that I wanted Haverford students to feel safe and at home during their four years at Haverford. And now, I am trying my best to do so, most recently by beginning a campaign to minimize microaggressions on campus. Not only have microaggressions made me feel like I do not belong here, they also hurt  my identity that is comprised of several marginalized identities. Microaggressions are not always intentional but at the same time, the impact that these microaggressions have overrides the intention. Through workshops, facilitated conversations, and other methods, I hope to contribute to this campus by coming up with ways to educate others.

I want our voices to be heard, and this is not an issue we can stay quiet about. Through this campaign, I hope to raise awareness that even as a liberal and generally accepting community, Haverford still has a long way to go in order to be completely accepting of people with marginalized identities. Although it is still in the works, this campaign has made me realize why I am here and has proven to me that I deserve to be here. I am here to change our community for the better. Through my position in Students’ Council, I plan on making the community safer for those with marginalized identities. If I can create a difference at Haverford, then nobody should feel entitled to tell me that I do not belong here. I deserve to be here just like everyone else.

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