This past week I had the pleasure to spend time with a group of absolutely fantastic people who were so inspiring. All of the LHIP interns were passionate, motivated, intelligent, ambitious and kind. It was an experience that far exceeded my expectations.
As a recent college graduate, I have struggled with indecision, doubt and anxiety about my next steps for the future. While I know I am not alone in this, it hasn’t been easy to deal with the feeling that I should be doing more; that I should be more successful; that after four years of higher education, I should have my life together. Joining LHIP was a last minute endeavor on my part. One month before graduation I found the posting on my school’s job and internship newsletter and applied on a whim. I was ecstatic when I got the interview and then the internship at Fire Island. Part of that happiness was just the relief that I had something to do after graduation. It was a comfort to know I had something to occupy the in-between time from graduating to finding a job out in the “real world.”
What I didn’t know to expect from this internship was the optimism and comfort I would encounter simply from meeting the other interns and the myriad men and women who took the time to talk with and help each of us during our workshop.
From the optimism and encouragement of Carlos Martinez, to the generosity and hospitality of Rafael Salgado at Cal-Wood, and the professional assistance and time of George McDonald, Dennis Vasquez, Tracey Stills and many others. We got to hear so many inspiring stories of people who have been similarly unsure about their life paths, but who have also had the courage to try new things, to seize opportunities, change careers, and most importantly, have had the perseverance and drive it takes to find their own success and contentment within their professional lives.
What struck me the most were the kind words of these established, successful professionals who were surprisingly impressed with our group and the things we have accomplished. Their words of encouragement were much needed.
We are a group of young people just setting out into a world that is, quite frankly, scary. Politically and economically, so many things have changed since our parent’s generation, and for the most part, the outlook is seemingly negative. It seems harder than ever to find a career in a competitive job market. Student loans are bogging us down, yet higher education is a necessity for gainful employment. It is stressful and confusing to find your way. But meeting so many people who seemed to believe in us, who saw the talents, intelligence and value we may often overlook in ourselves, was empowering. Especially because, as Latinos, we encounter all of the struggles of any other millennial, but we also deal with the struggles of being Latinos in America—an underrepresented group in many professional fields; a group that often struggles against the expectations of la familia who may not understand our ambitions. Yet, I have come to realize that we are also a group with tremendous potential and power. We are growing, improving, working hard, and fully capable of contributing our ideas to society. As Latinos, as young people with unique ideas and mindsets, we have value.
This internship and our time in Colorado have made me even prouder to be Latino. I am proud to be a college graduate, and especially proud to be an LHIP intern. I returned from this experience more optimistic about the future. While anxiety over graduate school applications, career choice and job hunting can still rear its ugly head at times, I will always remind myself of the inspiring people I met, of their individual stories, of the things they have had to overcome, and the struggles they continue to face. I know I’m not alone in this; I stand in solidarity with these incredible LHIP interns, with all of the other Latino millennials seeking their place, their voice, and their happiness.
(And of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without thanking Susan, Dalia and Paloma for making this internship possible and supporting each of us along the way. You all have been such an integral part of our individual journeys. Mil Gracias.)