Embracing Diversity, Celebrating Our Heritage
September 28, 2023
Dear ECMC Foundation Community,
ECMC Foundation is unwavering in its commitment to systemic change and dismantling the barriers facing college students from underserved backgrounds—students of color, first-generation students, students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds and others. Too often, structural barriers impede postsecondary outcomes and derail students’ progress toward their goal: a college credential. In our quest to improve and transform our nation’s higher education system, the bright spots can be overlooked and understated. During Hispanic Heritage Month, I want to take the opportunity to reflect on these bright spots, including the many contributions Hispanics make to the healthy functioning of society, a thriving economy and our progress toward achieving a more harmonious nation. It is right that we do so. However, efforts to encourage understanding across cultures should extend beyond designated months. I invite us to celebrate the rich tapestry of our multicultural nation year-round, on our campuses and in our communities.
I’d like to share with you a bit about my heritage. My father came to this country through the Mexican Farm Labor Program—the Bracero Program—in the mid-20th century. Like the nearly 45 million immigrants living in the United States, my father, who recently celebrated his 91st birthday, had high aspirations to ascend along the ladder of socioeconomic mobility. He overcame many obstacles, and did so, determined to provide us with a more secure life and an opportunity to live a life free from the shackles of poverty.
As the first in my family to complete college, I deeply identify with the millions of students who arrive on campus without a roadmap. My parents, brothers and sisters value education and encouraged me along my pathway to a degree with love, assurance and hope, even without any firsthand experience to share. Yes, we indeed faced hardship, but we were not defined by that hardship. It is heritage, faith and optimism that define me. I am proud to identify as Mexican American, proud to have sworn my loyalty to the United States during my naturalized citizenship ceremony more than 40 years ago and proud to celebrate the richness of diversity in education, workforce and society writ large.
I invite us to cherish the history and heritage of all people, to elevate their contributions to science, technology, the economy, academia, civil service and countless other fields. Students from all backgrounds are our future doctors, engineers, teachers and entrepreneurs, ready to seize the opportunity that comes with a college credential. Honoring these students sends a powerful message about the value of inclusivity and belonging.
It’s also important to recognize postsecondary institutions, which are making progress on this front. Our colleagues at Excelencia in Education this week will recognize institutions that have earned the Seal of Excelencia certification and recertification for intentionally serving Hispanic students. We applaud Excelencia’s efforts to elevate those institutions that model evidence-based practices to accelerate Hispanic student success. I look forward to honoring them in person during this year’s annual Celebración de Excelencia.
Hispanic Heritage Month presents a marker to recognize the countless contributions of Hispanic Americans, and we ought to do so throughout our journey to become a more perfect union.
President, ECMC Foundation