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Adán Acevedo (MBA 2023) has been selected as the student speaker for Harvard Business School’s (HBS) Class Day celebration, held this year on Wednesday, May 24. Class Day honors graduating students and typically takes place on the day before the School’s and University’s official graduation ceremonies. It is planned and conducted by a committee of second-year MBA students.

When asked about what Commencement means to him, Acevedo is uncharacteristically at a loss for words. “I cannot put into words the emotions I’ll feel during that week and especially the day I get that diploma,” he says after a moment. “I can already see my dad and mom in the audience. There’s an understanding when we look at each other, an accounting, for all the years—the struggle and pain of so many things they had to go through. They had so much loss, so many missed opportunities from giving up an entire life in El Salvador—not being able to spend time with loved ones, coming here and building a life and hoping that someday it would be worth it. That’s why moments like graduation are so valuable for us, and for so many of my classmates’ families: It is not only a recognition of our accomplishments at HBS but also of the hard work and sacrifice by our loved ones that helped us get here.”

Acevedo’s goal in life is to be a multiplier for his parents’ kindness and compassion. As teenagers, they fled the Salvadoran Civil War. Today, they own their home outside Los Angeles, have a daughter graduating high school next year, and will witness their son receiving his MBA this week. With their sacrifices in mind, Acevedo has steadily invested in creating and giving back to his communities, and worked to elevate the voices of the underrecognized.

In high school, he helped to establish a scholarship fund for low-income students from his community that is still active nearly 20 years later. As an undergraduate he was president of the Harvard College Democrats, interned at the White House Office of Public Engagement, and taught with Teach for America after graduating (in the past few weeks, former students have invited him to their college graduations and baby showers). As the former co-president of the Harvard Latino Alumni Association, Acevedo actively advocated for Latinx students and alumni, and he currently sits on the board of directors of the Young Eisner Scholars, which provides financial, social, and academic support to students in underserved communities across the United States.

All this work, says Acevedo, is about empowering people.

“What was crystallized for me in this Elective Curriculum year is that in any situation that I’m in, I really care about the people,” he explained. “I care about getting to know people, I care about getting to connect with people, I care about celebrating people, and I care about helping people be their best selves. I think HBS is built for that, and it’s nice to be at a place that both values this highly and has high standards for professional excellence.

Acevedo is grateful for the professors who have inspired him with their sharp insights, extensive experience, humanity and authenticity, tough questions, and skillful navigation of classroom dynamics, and for the chefs, cafeteria checkout staff, board washers, and housekeepers who support students every day. He credits his wife for his ability to accomplish all that he has, his parents and younger sister for showing him what it means to be and care for a family, and his friends and mentors for their unwavering support. “HBS has also reinforced the importance of focus and confidence in daily decisions for me. Whether I’m taking part in a classroom discussion or spending time with loved ones, I’m able to focus on what’s in front of me and really give it my all,” says Acevedo. “It’s been a process of learning to be adaptable, challenging myself, and embracing everything that HBS has to offer—not feeling overwhelmed by what needs to get done, but just being certain that at any given moment I’m doing the right thing.”

As he and his wife return to Los Angeles and he starts his new consulting job, Acevedo aims to learn from his colleagues, gain experience across sectors, and work towards a career in content acquisition. With technology and AI changing how media is consumed and created, he wants to ensure that it is being done ethically and without bias, so that the stories of those traditionally underrepresented in Hollywood are heard and valued at all levels.

“I am a problem solver who’s passionate about diversity and equity and telling the stories I’ve seen all my life. I’m passionate about making sure that my students, future children, and grandchildren get to see a world that evolves at a pace that we can all be proud of,” said Acevedo.