GateWay is hosting our second annual National HSI Week as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. In this article, Danny Vingochea shares his thoughts on HSI Week and Hispanic Heritage Month and the shared connection he has with his students.
1) What does Hispanic Heritage Month and HSI Week mean to you?
As a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) with locations across Phoenix, it is important for GateWay to acknowledge the cultures that build and shape our community. We make it a priority to ensure our students, regardless of their backgrounds, feel welcomed on campus. Celebrating all the diverse cultures here at GateWay is vital to student success.
2) How do you feel like you impact the Hispanic Community through your work?
I believe students have a better chance of being successful when they can relate to their professors and create connections with them. I grew up in Tucson, Arizona and attended Pueblo High School, which is a predominantly Hispanic school. The neighborhood I grew up in was considered “inner-city” and the children in our community were automatically labeled “at risk.” By sharing a similar background and upbringing with our students, I hope they can look at me as someone they can connect, approach, and talk to. I am a prime example of someone coming from a neighborhood like theirs and earning a college degree. If I can do it, so can they.
3) How has your Hispanic heritage or culture shaped your life and who you are?
My parents instilled in me great pride and respect for our Mexican heritage. They reminded me that not only did I represent my family when I was out in public/school/work, but I also represented Mexican-American people everywhere. Mexican culture was always present in our household with either food, music, or the Spanish language and it was to be endeared and admired.
4) What is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome?
The biggest challenge I encountered during my college education and early part of my career was relating to others. Especially as a student at Arizona State University, I did not see a lot of students or professors with my background or who were Latino/Latina. I felt out of place and a little lost. It was not until I joined Hispanic organizations (Joaquin Bustoz Math-Science Honors Program, MEChA, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Hispanic Business Student Association) that I met students and professors who were just like me and shared similar stories and experiences. If it wasn’t for groups like these, I do not know if I would have made it through college. The support and guidance they provided were priceless. I highly encourage students to go out and join clubs and organizations. You will create stronger bonds with GateWay and find some amazing support groups.
5) What is something you feel people should be more aware of?
How important it is for students to feel connected to the school/campus they are attending. It is critical for students to feel welcomed and appreciated by the faculty and staff. That is why events such as Hispanic Heritage Month and HSI Week are so important. GateWay’s student body is so diverse in many ways and they all should be recognized and celebrated.
6) What advice would you give to Hispanic students in today's world?
Not to get discouraged when faced with challenges or when they come across intolerant individuals. Stay focused on your goals and dreams and keep in mind, what you accomplish will benefit your family for generations to come.
7) Anything else you would like to share with us?
I know college can be a challenging time for everyone. Many are balancing school, work, and family all at once and it can be overwhelming. Now and throughout the pandemic, students continue to work and attend school virtually. It is easy for students to feel alone and isolated. I just want to tell everyone that they always have someone to reach out to. Whether it is faculty, staff, or counseling, please feel free to contact somebody when you begin feeling discouraged, because you are never alone. Keep that in mind and have a great Fall semester. Si Se Puede!