Dania Alvarez Student, Cornell University Industrial and Labor Relations
How did you get to where you are today? I was born in the vibrant city of Mexico City, just like my parents. At merely 5 months old, I was taken on my first flight with my parents to Phoenix, Arizona, where my dad was temporarily moved to by the company he worked for. Although it was originally intended to be a 2 to 3 year stay, my parents made the courageous decision to stay permanently in the US, becoming the first generation in our family to move to the United States and intentionally thinking of the future of their only daughter. My supportive parents have been the catalyst of my academic successes, especially when I completed the International Baccaleauraute program and was admitted into Cornell University. Although it meant sending their daughter more than 3,000 miles away, my proud parents well knew the prestige of an Ivy League education and reassured me that my education is why we are here. To them I owe my love for being raised both bilingual and bicultural as well as my dedication to achieving success in all that I do. My goal in life is to make them proud and give back for the sacrifices they have made solely for my benefit. As a current senior at Cornell University, I am grateful for my experiences and am very anxious to embark on a successful career. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? I am extremely lucky to have two supportive parents. My mother has especially played an important role as the most influential person in my life. Through all of my professional endeavors, she has always been there to give me all of the guidance she can, even without having gone through the same experiences as me in this country. The verbal support (as well as loving emojis over iMessage) she provides me before any interview, exam, or important event in my life is invaluable. I wouldn’t have the courage I have in myself without my Mami! How did you decide on your college major OR the career you have chosen? and how do you see your choice as an opportunity to help your community? When I first learned about the School of Industrial Relations at Cornell, I knew that I wanted to pursue a major that would open a career path for me to improve the lives of others. In my studies, I have learned about labor movements in the US and Latin America, modern calls for action to uphold all workers’ rights, and the complexities involved in creating a fair and inclusive workplace. My interdisciplinary major ties in many law, history, and business outlets that I can uphold as a professional and founder of a non-profit organization to benefit my community one day. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Mexican Best memory of growing up. Most of my cherished memories growing up were when my parents and I would revisit Mexico almost every year to spend time with family. One of my memorable experiences was when my cousin and I celebrated our 15th birthdays together with the rest of our extended family in Tepoztlán, recognized as a “Pueblo Mágico”, in the state of Morelos. Best memory of a day at school or work. One of my best memories in college is performing on stage as a freshman with my dance team, Sabor Latino Dance Ensemble. Before college, I had only danced casually at all my family events to a limited variety of cumbia and salsa. In wanting to become involved with the Latino/a community at Cornell, I decided to try out for Sabor Latino. Being admitted onto the team and performing merengue, salsa, and bachata for the first time at our annual show was one of the best parts of my Cornell experience. Best day ever. My best day ever has been when we organized a family trip for a cruise of the Mediterranean. I marveled over the experience of my first cruise and although the 12-day trip was the best trip I’ve had in my life, the excitement of the first day was incomparable. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Cornell University, Industrial and Labor Relations Major with Minors in Business and Information Science Best book you ever read. This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz Favorite quote? Be mindful of the future, but not at the expense of the moment. Favorite sports team. La Selección Nacional de Mexico Favorite song. Gymnopédie No.1 Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. The story of every Latino/a in the US is unique, which is what makes our experiences colorful and beautiful. Seeing other Latino/as accomplish great things at the face of different obstacles has always inspired me and motivated me to lead and advocate for others. In organizing the Latino Leadership Summit at Cornell for the past two years, my passion is always invigorated after the day-long conference. One of the biggest takeaways I have had is that it is important to surround yourself with a supportive circle and be involved in your community. My favorite piece of advice that I can resonate with in finding myself to be the only Latina or person of color in many situations, is that “if you’re the only Latino/a in the room, make sure you’re not the last one there”. This is the message I would share with others; as you succeed in life, be conscious in paving the way for others in order to ensure the continuous rise of our community.
Katrina Lastra Student, Cornell University Mechanical Engineering
how did you get to where you are today? Katrina was born and raised in a small town on Long Island, NY called Bellport with her parents and 2 older siblings. She is currently a first-generation student entering her senior year at Cornell University and is studying Mechanical Engineering. Over the past 3 years at this university Katrina has spent her time exploring and learning more about her Latina culture through joining the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). Through this organization she had the opportunity to meet many other Hispanic engineers, and non-engineers, across the school. By her junior year Katrina became one of the Co-Presidents of SHPE and helped organize the club’s 2nd annual Latino Leadership Summit. This event aimed to empower and educate rising Latinx students on the importance of becoming leaders within their society, regardless of their race/ethnicity. Being a part of this organization has taught her the importance of standing up for those around you, being confident, and more so, being supportive of others. In her spare time Katrina likes to explore nature, go on runs, and spend time with her friends and family. In the future she hopes to enter the mechanical engineering industry and work for a company with the goal of helping others. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? My mother has always been the most influential person in my life. After seeing her valiantly battle breast cancer during my junior year of high school, she has instilled an even stronger drive within me to reach my fullest potential. While being the only child at home when she was sick and with my father working long hours, I learned what it was like to be a mother through cleaning the dishes, cooking dinner, and taking care of my mom. Having to balance this with the stresses of high school and college preparation, the lessons I learned through those 6 months of my life have shaped me into the person I am today. How did you decide on your college major OR the career you have chosen? and how do you see your choice as an opportunity to help your community? After seeing my mother battle breast cancer I knew I wanted to go into an industry that would allow me to help others in similar situations. Mechanical engineering was the major that would allow me to do that. Over the past four years I have seen how the skills that I have gained in school will allow me to either build or manage projects that are designed with the intent to better the closest to me and society as a whole. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Cuban Best memory of growing up. First day of college Best memory of a day at school or work. Sitting on the roof of my Freshman year dorm building on the last day of the year with all of the amazing friends that I met Best day ever. The day my mother was finally cancer free Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Cornell University - Mechanical Enginnering Best book you ever read. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee Favorite quote? "Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it." / "At the still point there the dance is." Favorite sports team. NY Yankees Favorite song. Rivers and Roads - The Head and The Heart Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Don't let other people's perceptions of you make you feel like you are not good enough. Continue to strive to do the best that you can and that's more than enough.
Yversha Mari Roman Senior Relationship Manager and Latino Leadership Development Program Coordinator United Way of Greater Rochester
how did you get to where you are today? Yversha Roman, born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, moved to Rochester, New York in 1988. She was raised by her mother in the North East neighborhood of Rochester. Growing up in a single-parent household, Yversha was exposed to many of the realities within a struggling community. At the age of 15, Yversha began working as a community outreach advocate with Action for a Better Community’s Action Front Center. Yversha’s outreach and advocacy experiences started in her adolescent years and have continue to blossom into adulthood. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, Yversha enrolled in AmeriCorps. By the age of 28, she was named Assistant Director of School Based Programs for the Center for Youth Services, Inc. In that position, she was actively dedicated to helping mold programming that would benefit the youth she enjoys working with in order for them to become the best citizens possible. She ran for Monroe County Legislature, eventually becoming the Monroe County Democratic Leader of Legislative District 26 &7. She currently severs as a Senior Relationship Manager and the Latino Leadership Program Coordinator at the United Way of Greater Rochester. Today, she helps mold future professional community leaders to sit on boards, committees and commissions while she manages a financial portfolio in hopes of identifying resources within the community that will lead to the most effective programing possible in order to enhance our overall community. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? The most influential person in my life without a doubt has been my mother. She has taught me what it means to be resilient through he continued perseverance. How did you decide on your college major OR the career you have chosen? and how do you see your choice as an opportunity to help your community? I have always enjoyed giving back to the community, as I have understood it to be a personal responsibility. When I realized I could turn my passion for community organizing and service into a profession I enrolled into college as a declared Social Work major. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Puerto Rican Best memory of growing up. I am blessed with many great memories growing up therefore, I cannot identify one. Yet, I will say my best memories usually always include my family and I. Best memory of a day at school or work. My best memories at work usually always include me overcoming an obstacle and completing a task that once seemed impossible. Best day ever. Everyday I attempt to have my best day! Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Bachelor's degree in Social Work with a minor is Sociology attained from Nazareth College of Rochester. Best book you ever read. Can not just name one. Favorite quote? "Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I'm Possible!" Favorite sports team. Buffalo Bills all day everyday! Favorite song. Anything with a great rhythm and powerful story or message; I love to move! Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. "Believe you can and dream big. It may not be easy to do, but it will be worth it."
Peter Noel Romero Student, Cornell University Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
How did you get to where you are today? Peter Romero is a senior at Cornell University majoring in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and minoring in Latin American Studies. He was born and raised by the Shore in Central New Jersey, but was heavily influenced by his family’s Peruvian heritage throughout his life. While at Cornell, he has served multiple roles within his communities, including Academic Affairs Chair, Relations Chair, President of SHPE (Society for HIspanic Professional Engineers), and will serve as this year’s Publicity Chair. He is also serving his second year as Co-Treasurer of Sabor Latino Dance Ensemble and preparing for their 25th Annual Dance Concert. He intends on pursuing his Masters of Engineering in Material Science and continue on to pursue his PhD in Chemical Engineering, where he hopes to focus on energy conservation and helping communities in his family’s home country of Peru. Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? The most influential person in my life would definitely have to be my mother. Her small appearance can be very deceiving. My mom has always faced adversity and tough times with a level head; she is the biggest heart and has always shown great care and generosity to others. I admire her strength and ability to always hold her head up high and I try to carry that with me every day. How did you decide on your college major OR the career you have chosen? and how do you see your choice as an opportunity to help your community? My chemistry/physics teacher opened my eyes to the possibilities of the sciences have to offer. I had thoroughly enjoyed learning about these subjects in high school, and my teacher was able to provide insight in their real world applications. This, plus an abnormal enjoyment for mathematics, prompted me to look into the fields of sciences and engineering. Later on, my physics teacher talked to me about chemical engineering and I have been loving it ever since.
Chemical engineering can be multi-disciplinary. There are many ways its fundamentals can be used to talk real problems faced by people and communities today. And, at it's core, chemical engineering has shown me how our energy is used and harvested. Processes and system must be designed sustainably and efficiently in order to ensure the well-being of our planet, our environment, and ourselves. And although some effects of global climate change are not noticed in all parts of the world, there are some communities that are already paying the price. In the Andes, many villages get their water from annually melted ice caps; yet, these sources are now significantly depleted and causing strain on current water. I hope to be able to research energy/environmental issues in hopes to promote a more sustainable world. What is your Latino / Hispanic Heritage? Peruvian Best memory of growing up. One of my most cherished memories was seeing the faces of my mom and dad during my younger brother's high school graduation. They were happy; they were proud; they were sad; they were excited. They were relieved - both their children finished high school and became first-generation college students at Cornell. Best memory of a day at school or work. One of my best memories at school would be the day I received my grades from my first semester of freshman year. I was surprised to see a couple of A’s and finally felt a certainty that I could not only survive at Cornell, but also thrive here. Best day ever. My "best day ever" had to be when I visited one of the Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu. I remember waking up around 4am in order to see the sunrise. Surrounded by mountains and staring down at the Incan ruins as the sun rose, I took a deep breath and felt heightened level of peace for the first time in my life. Where did you go to College and what was your focus/major OR what College are you attending and what is your major? Cornell University, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Best book you ever read. The Giver Favorite quote? If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. (Thoreau) Favorite sports team. FC Barcelona Favorite song. Latinoamerica - Calle 13 Message you would share with all young Latinos reading your story. Explore your passions and don’t be afraid of hard work; remember to put in time and energy into the things you want. Set goals for yourself and partition them into mini-milestones. Find time in your life for your friends, family, and for yourself. Finally, I encourage you to explore your roots and ancestry and find inspiration in their stories/experiences.
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