I was born in Mexico and moved to California when my parents decided they wanted to build a better life for our family. From the age of five, my new home was Fresno, California - a large city in the Central Valley where I was surrounded by a community that looked a lot like me. 

I soon adjusted to American life, while maintaining my Mexican traditions through large family gatherings, tamales & pasteles, and a drive to chase the American dream. As the oldest of four children, I aspired to be a role model for my siblings and to make my parents’ sacrifices worthwhile.  

I didn’t recognize that being “Latino American” could come into conflict with “traditional” American culture until college. Prior to my undergraduate experience at UC Berkeley, I was surrounded by other Latino students who aspired to change the world, and even had a few teachers who were Latinas in elementary school. I didn’t recognize the deep identity challenges that Latinos growing up in other parts of America face.

Going to undergrad, I was torn between associating myself too much with Latino communities that could categorize and place me in a bucket I didn’t exactly want to be stuck in, and  wanting to surround myself with others that could empathize with my challenges as one of the few Latinos in my engineering and business courses. 

Transitioning into my career was an elevated version of undergrad with fewer Latinos, creating more confusion about my Mexican American identity, and with fewer opportunities to talk about the challenges I felt. 

This inspired me to make a difference. I started driving diversity initiatives and attending national Latino conferences to find others that understood me and the struggles that I faced in the workplace. I am at HBS because it is a place that enables change, and I hope to leverage the skills I learn here to drive more opportunities for diversity in the workplace for Latinos like me. 

I’d like to pass along three tips for prospective Latinos who have grown up in America. I hope that this advice helps you through your admissions process. 

1. Own your identity as a Latino

I absolutely sympathize with any Latino who treads a fine line between wanting their accomplishments to be 100% merit-based with no association as a diversity candidate versus wanting to be proud of their identity and community. At HBS, I have truly been able to recognize the importance of not leaving behind who I am, where I come from, and why that is important. 

As a Latina-American in my section, I bring a rich and different perspective that I own in discussions. Bringing my experiences into the discussion has allowed different types of voices to be heard and I hope that other Latinos bring their voices to the table. 

As a prospective student, I challenge you to embrace your Latino identity and understand how that makes you unique in your workplace, how your perspective is shaped differently, and how you want to use your identity to make a difference in the world. 

2. Just apply! 

I had no expectation that I would be accepted into HBS, but I took a leap of faith and just applied. Harvard is an amazing place for future Latino American leaders, but it requires more of these high potential students to apply and see themselves here. Applying is the only way to really be considered, so don’t close the door on yourself. 

3. Connect with the Latino Student Association (LASO)

Before applying to HBS, I attended the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA) Conference. At ALPFA, I realized how much I had been missing by not surrounding myself with others that I could empathize with. 

After being admitted to HBS, I decided to invest my time in the LASO (Latin American Student Organization) group on campus. In LASO, I have met remarkable students who are also driving diversity conversations and making changes in the workplace towards a more inclusive environment. 

My involvement in LASO has helped me grow my leadership skills and embrace the importance of my heritage. Any prospective student interested in LASO should send us a note and get connected - we want to be a resource for any Latino American student that wants to help us make a difference.