Summer institute instills value of ‘paying it forward & paying it back’
Senior attends Hispanic Scholarship Fund's virtual Youth Leadership Institute in July
August 30, 2021
While it felt overwhelming at first to be on Zoom for around five hours each day, with short breaks scattered in, the energy and excitement radiating from my peers through the screen kept me excited for the rest of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s (HSF) Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) conference this summer.
HSF provides students with the resources and knowledge to successfully complete higher education, as well as giving HSF Scholars access to an expansive support network. It is one of the nation’s leading nonprofit organizations, providing various programs, support services and awarding over $650 million in scholarships.
From a national applicant pool of 7,663 students, I felt extremely proud to be one of the 480 students selected to participate in YLI. I had the choice of picking between virtually attending YLI at the University of Southern California (USC) or the University of Chicago. I got to be part of the YLI USC cohort, which was sponsored by Nike, Wells Fargo and USC.
A week before YLI began, we were assigned a mentor and put into different groups. These groups were referred to as our “Familias” (families). The five-day conference designed for incoming seniors taught me how to effectively communicate with others, develop, care for and utilize my network, create a captivating resume and build a professional social media presence, such as on LinkedIn. We heard from various speakers and a panel of mentors from the program. Two of my favorite sessions include creating our “elevator pitch” for job interviews and pretending to be a college admission officer to gain insight on what the other side of the admission process is like.
Despite COVID-19 causing the YLI to switch to a completely virtual setting, we were all so encouraging and supportive of each other. The chat was speeding rapidly with words of encouragement and praise whenever it was someone’s turn to speak. This definitely made me less nervous when I was chosen as one of the representatives at one point for my Superfamilia, the UNOvators.
Being surrounded by various bright-minded Latinos and hearing their success stories, I felt an immediate sense of community and empowerment all week. I looked forward to the deep discussions that took place in our breakout rooms. Since all of the mentors were in the middle of their college education, I enjoyed hearing all of the tips and advice they gave. Each speaker and mentor who shared their story with us left me inspired to dream bigger than I previously had.
On the last day of the conference, it was bittersweet saying goodbye to all of the incredible people I met. The connections I made between my fellow HSF Scholars is one of the reasons why this experience was so impactful and memorable.
While HSF has equipped me with a lot of knowledge, the reminder of “Paying it Forward & Paying it Back” has stuck with me the most. As an older sister and second generation of pursuing a higher education, I understand the importance of putting that saying into practice. I’m grateful for all of the resources and support HSF provides to high-achieving Latinos such as myself, reassuring us that we are more than capable and bright enough to pursue higher education.
After participating in the YLI conference, I feel wholeheartedly confident in myself and prepared as I begin applying to college.