Minorities carve out identity

By Christie Albrecht
September 24, 2003
Truman Index

Being one of few Hispanics in white surroundings is nothing new for Mexican sophomore Laura Corona.

“I’m really used to it because of the town that I come from,” Corona said. “When I was there, I was pretty much the only Hispanic in all of my classes. So you’re still aware of the fact … but for me, I’ve gotten really used to it, so it’s not such a big deal.”

Hispanics will make up 24 percent of the American population by 2050, according to projections by the U.S. Census Bureau. Hispanic students are still the vast minority at Truman, however, comprising less than two percent of the population.

Corona said that although she classifies herself as a minority, she doesn’t think she’s treated like a minority at Truman.

“I’ve always had friends and interactions with the majority, and so I’ve never really felt excluded from anything I wanted to be a part of,” Corona said. “There’s a sense of ‘you’re the only one of this race,’ but [I’m] not excluded because of it.”

Preserving her Mexican heritage is a struggle at Truman, Corona said.

“You really have to work at [not forgetting about your culture],” Corona said. “You have to work at keeping your own culture because most people don’t think about it. They’re all surrounded by people that they share that with.”

Corona said the Hispanic-American Leadership Organization, of which she is treasurer, is instrumental in helping her maintain her culture.

“I think just being around people that are more similar to you … sharing the same kind of background and family and customs helps you appreciate your culture more,” Corona said.

Corona said she is pleased with the willingness of students to learn about her culture.

“I think Truman is really welcoming, and I find the people that don’t find it welcoming are the ones who have this preset idea that people are just not going to be receptive to them,” Corona said. “But I think if you’re willing to talk to people, they’re willing to talk to you.”

Mexican-American senior Elisea Avalos, a charter member and president of the HALO, said she often was the only Hispanic in her high school classes.

“Everywhere I’ve grown up, I’ve always been in the minority, so it’s not really an issue to me,” Avalos said. “I just fit in the crowd somehow.”

Avalos said she was not raised thinking she was different.

“When we were little, we knew we were darker than everybody else, but it wasn’t like ‘Oh, it’s because we’re Hispanic or Mexican,'” Avalos said. “It was just, ‘That’s who we are.'”

As part of a minority group on campus, Avalos said she finds solidarity with other minorities, not just Hispanics.

“There’s something about being a minority,” Avalos said. “It doesn’t matter what race you are … that everyone relates to. Being pushed back makes you want to push forward, be stronger. I think that’s what a lot of minorities have in common, that force.”

Latina sophomore Patrilie Hernandez said that being a minority at Truman has its advantages.

“I thought it was kind of a blessing because it gave me the opportunity to really show my culture to people, and that’s really something I’ve always taken pride in,” Hernandez said.

Bertha Thomas, assistant dean of multicultural affairs, said diversity is very important to modern universities, so minority students are in increasingly high demand.

She said she is pleased with HALO’s influence on prospective Truman students.

“[The members of HALO] are doing remarkable things,” Thomas said. “Truman will attract more Hispanic students because of the work that they do. They’ve done such a good job of bringing cultural events…that make Hispanic students more comfortable and feel more welcome on our campus.”

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