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CALS Leadership Institute Student Reflects on Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 each year to recognize Hispanic Americans. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is recognizing Hispanic students and their stories and experiences.

After changing his major three times, Juan Pachon, found his home within the CALS Food and Resource Economics (FRE) Department, finding a passion for helping marginalized communities through food and resource policy. He also applied to and was selected for the CALS Leadership Institute (CALS LI) in Spring 2020.

Through CALS LI, selected students participate in a three-semester long program focused on personal and professional leadership development, gain a mentor and participate in an international cultural experience.

Pachon’s classmates include students from varying majors across CALS, culminating in diverse class discussions. As a result, Pachon has further expanded his knowledge of the agricultural industry through interactions with his classmates, as well as his thought process and approach to challenges.

“Overall, the social issues that are brought up are very complex and so I like to think that I am able to be supply parts of the discussion, but it takes the whole cohort in order to analyze every aspect of the issue,” said Pachon.

Pachon’s economics background established through his FRE classes allowed him to understand the social and economic constraints in class discussions by mathematically finding the most effective solution with the greatest impact.

Pachon hopes to work in the field of development economics and food policy optimization, helping impact rural communities in developing countries and the United States; the skills gained through CALS LI will directly help him in this role.

Why is Hispanic Heritage Month important to you?

I think it brings awareness to issues that involve Hispanic people in the United States today. With immigration, xenophobia, racism, discrimination, and inequality being experienced by Hispanic and Hispanic Americans, I think Hispanic Heritage Month gives private and public institutions to look at how they can contribute to Hispanic communities and create unity among American society. To me, who worries and has concerns about these issues all the time, Hispanic Heritage Month allows for people to show solidarity with me and the Hispanic community.

What should others know about Hispanic Heritage Month?

What people should know about Hispanic Heritage Month, is that it gives them the opportunity to learn and inform themselves more about the Hispanic experience in the United States. There are so many ways that Hispanics and Hispanic-Americans have triumphed, survived, and unfortunately, suffered, that this highlighted month allows for all these stories to be published and heard, just like mine is.

Another thing that Hispanic Heritage Month also allows for people to do is help in communities. People can join groups that may help teach English to migrants, provide legal help, provide shelter and food, provide basic medical practices, and a bunch of other ways that can improve the livelihood of Hispanic people that need it. People can also get to know Hispanic people in the United States by joining events that held in celebration and hopefully get exposed to the variety of cultures that exist within the Hispanic ethnicity.

What advice do you have for other Hispanic Students?

Don’t be afraid to talk to people who have had similar paths as you or who have life experiences similar to what you want to do. Join clubs and groups that remind you of home. When it comes to finding a place in the University, look at your heritage as a source of inspiration and never doubt the roots that you have and the ones you will establish at the University.

I think the most important piece of advice I can give is to ask for help when you need it. It helps to know that people have overcome similar obstacles and challenges and that they’re more than happy to help you with yours.

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