For Jackelyn Palmas, a third-year biology major and president of the
Latino Student Union, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate
those who paved the way for her, as well as those who will follow. She
is grateful for her parents, who have worked hard and made sacrifices
to ensure her bright future.
“I know my parents had a lot of barriers,” she said, reflecting on
her parents’ challenging journey to the United States.
Jose Medina, a fourth-year student pursuing a degree in political
science, has a similar story. “I’m doing this for them,” he said.
“Growing up the youngest of five, we always had to take care of each
other. I saw my parents working every day to provide for us, and my
siblings and I had to rely on each other.”
GVSU’s first Hispanic Heritage Month event, "Presente y
adelante! A time to Celebrate, Remember and Amplify our Latinx
Voices," featured a presentation by Martha Villegas on Latinx
civil rights leaders and activists, and reminded both Palmas and
Medina of those before them who paved the way.
“It’s a chance to honor their legacies and learn more about their
history,” Palmas reflected. “You don't read about them in textbooks at
school. I'm just learning about them now, and I'm more than halfway in
my college career.”
Both Palmas and Medina are working hard to break the cycle for those
that follow them. “I tend to put so much pressure on myself. Being the
first one in my family to go to university, it's really hard,” Palmas
said. “Sometimes on paperwork, they ask you what your parents’ highest
education level is. Many of us have to write ‘middle school’ or ‘high
school.’ But I know for us, our kids are going to be able to say, ‘My
parents got a bachelor's degree or a master's degree.' We’re breaking
Medina works hard to have the same impact on other’s lives, including
his students at Kellogsville High School where he works as a college
prep teacher. “I'm working with students trying to get them ready for
college and for real life. I want them to be ready,” Medina said.
Medina’s ambition for a brighter future isn’t limited to the students
he teaches. He hopes to run for office, continuing to break barriers
and representing those he loves. “I want to be that representation.
Future generations can look at us and say, ‘They broke those barriers
for us,'” Medina said.