GateWay is hosting our second annual National HSI Week as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. In this article, Monica Buensuceso shares her thoughts on HSI Week and Hispanic Heritage Month.
1) What does Hispanic Heritage Month and HSI Week mean to you?
Hispanic Heritage Month and HSI both mean a great deal to me. It means Latinx/Hispanics are everywhere and it’s time to learn more about ourselves. This month allows the Latinx/Hispanic community to proudly recognize all of the achievements and contributions our people have brought to our nation. We are continuing to advance in many professions and we should take note of that.
Working for a Hispanic Serving Institution is one of the many reasons I chose to work at Gateway Community College. It is my passion to work and support our diverse population and assist students with their goals.
2) How do you feel like you impact the Hispanic Community with the work you are doing?
It is important for the Hispanic community to see people of color in leadership/professional roles. As a bilingual counseling faculty, I hope to impact the Latinx community by empowering and encouraging all students to reach academic, professional, and personal success. I teach CPD 150, a course that helps students discover themselves to create greater success in college and in life. I also share a similar background as many of our students, therefore it makes me more relatable.
3) How has your Hispanic heritage or culture shaped your life and who you are?
I was born in Peru and moved to New Jersey when I was young. I grew up in a primarily white community and English was my second language. Throughout my childhood I felt out of place and embarrassed of my culture. It was difficult growing up in a community I did not fit in. Fortunately my parents continued our traditions and we often visited my family in Lima, Peru. Navigating my immigrant culture while being raised in the U.S. has shaped my views on identity and what it means to be an American. As I got older, I embraced my culture and in college I majored in Spanish Literature. I had the opportunity to study abroad and learn about the many Spanish speaking countries around the world. I am proud of my culture, race and ethnicity, they are a part of who I am and have played a critical role in shaping my educational decisions. I will forever keep my Peruvian heritage alive and teach my children to continue the legacy.
4) What is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome?
I am a first generation college student. The sacrifices my immigrant parents made opened the doors to my success but it was not easy. My parents did not speak English and when it came to academic success, I was on my own. I didn’t know how to apply for college, that standardized test scores mattered, or what FAFSA meant. After enrolling into college, I decided I was going to do everything I could to be successful. It was a struggle and I failed many times. I had roadblocks but it did not stop me from continuing to reach my goal of graduating from college. After I graduated, I decided to attend graduate school. Hard work and determination helped me become the successful person that I am today. If you are a struggling student, I know you can overcome the roadblocks as well, embrace the failure because it is a part of your success story.
5) What is something you feel people should be more aware of?
We are a multiracial, multicultural group which includes indigenous people who speak their own native tongues (such as Quechua, a language spoken in Peru). There are many misconceptions and stereotypes about the history and presence of Latinx/Hispanics in the US. It is important for us to learn about it and to speak up against stereotypes.
6) What advice would you give to Hispanic students in today's world?
Students of color face a great deal of pressure. I want to remind all students that with hard work and perseverance, you can reach your goals. While growing up, I did not see many people that looked like me in professional careers, so I thought it was not a realistic goal. Do not let that affect you, use it to better develop yourself. Let’s see more Latinx/Hispanic leaders! ¡Si, se puede! Yes, we can!”
7) Anything else you would like to share with us?
I encourage all Latinx/Hispanic students to learn more about other Latinx/Hispanic traditions and cultures. Try something new. Taste food and listen to music from various Spanish speaking countries aside from your own. Let’s learn about our people together! ¡Latinos Unidos!