ALAS at the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI)

Javier Sanchez, Melissa Flores Jaimes, and Jesus Guevara, Contributors

This past weekend, we were able to attend the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI) with the theme being “Defend Democracy: Aqui y Ahora.” The leadership conference was located in Chicago. There were 10 total students who attended and represented the organization of Augsburg Latin American Students (ALAS). USHLI is a place where high school and college students were able to get together, network, attend workshops and hear powerful panelists.

One of the highlights of the conference was Celina Villanueva who was one of the speakers at the Latino Leaders Luncheon. Celina is a State Representative in Illinois from District 21. Celina grew up in Little Village, a neighborhood with a high population of Latinos. Celina mentioned she grew up being a little brown girl from Chicago and that all of us are one of the scariest things in the White House because we are powerful and resilient towards changing societal norms.

Out of all the political speakers, such as Beto O’Rourke, Deb Haalland and Julian Castro, Celina was the main speaker that captured the audience’s attention by being true to her roots and speaking what was most valuable to her. Her story cultivated what the conference was about when she said, “To be a leader of today not the leaders of tomorrow” in her speech. She wanted us to look at the present as Latinx youth and be aware that we can make changes now if we put our mind to it. After Celina’s speech, everybody who identified as Latinx felt empowered for being brown as well.

The trip allowed us Augsburg students to interact with one another and learn more about each other’s background and past experiences when it comes to being a Latin American first-generation student. It was interesting to learn about one another’s roots and where we specifically come from and who we are “fighting” for. By “fighting,” we don’t mean the physical action, but rather the overcoming of obstacles that we take in order to reach our version of success for our families who have made grand sacrifices to make sure we can get the life and education that we are blessed with today.

Students from the Augsburg Latin American Students attend the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute in Chicago on 2/15 – 2/16. Photo Provided by Melissa Flores.

This article was originally published in the Feb. 22, 2019 issue.