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### Thriving Through the Peaks and Valleys: A Latina’s Journey in Graduate School

Being a minority at any point in the system can pose challenges. During my elementary and middle school years, there was a lack of diversity among my peers, leading to feelings of embarrassment about my heritage, including my Spanish-sounding last name and the traditional meals my mother packed for me. This sense of otherness persisted into high school, where I felt compelled to validate my Latina identity amidst classmates who were more culturally connected. In college, the struggle continued as I navigated interactions with affluent white students, clinging tightly to my roots by actively participating in the Latinx student union.

Throughout the past two decades, I have oscillated between contrasting environments, making it arduous to fully embrace my identity irrespective of the setting. Despite these challenges, I decided to pursue my master’s degree in Library and Information Science, a dream I had nurtured for years. Opting for an online program allowed me to balance my studies with work commitments and remain close to my family on the West Coast.

Upon commencing my studies, I was disheartened to find a lack of racial diversity in my cohort, predominantly comprising white or white-passing individuals with minimal representation from Black, Latinx, Asian, or Indigenous backgrounds. This dearth of diversity mirrored the broader landscape of librarianship, where white individuals dominate the profession, highlighting the pressing need for increased inclusivity and representation.

While I value the perspectives and contributions of my classmates, the stark reality of the profession’s homogeneity underscores the uphill battle towards fostering diversity and equity within the field. Despite incremental progress in educational attainment among Latinx individuals, the underrepresentation of marginalized communities in higher education remains a pervasive issue.

The discrepancy between diversity rhetoric and tangible outcomes is palpable, both in the classroom and the broader professional sphere. As someone who lacked role models of color in educational settings, I am acutely aware of the transformative power of representation in shaping aspirations and narratives. My resolve to advocate for diversity and inclusion stems from a deep-seated desire to empower future generations of Black and brown individuals to envision a more inclusive and equitable future.

While the journey ahead may be challenging, the prospect of inspiring young girls to see themselves reflected in positions of authority within libraries propels me to persist in my academic pursuits. By embracing my heritage unapologetically and championing diversity within academic discourse, I strive to embody the change I wish to see in the world. Ultimately, my commitment to fostering inclusivity is fueled by the belief that every individual, regardless of background, deserves the opportunity to envision and pursue a limitless future.