Gabriel: What inspired you to spearhead the UChicago Latino Alumni affinity group in NYC?
Leslie: Several things. There was a need for a Latino group here and personally, there was need to feel connected to the University. I wanted to connect with fellow alums that are Latino and who want to do something positive for the University community. Also, I miss college a lot. I had lots of memories and great times, and I feel that I can still maintain those memories with the same attitude and excitement that I had in college through this group.
Gabriel: Where do you hope to see the NYC UChicago Latino Alumni affinity group in the next few years?
Leslie: I hope our membership is in the hundreds! I hope we get to the point where someone graduates, looks out for us, and wants to join our group right out of college. I want to get the point where we're big enough that people are reaching out to us. I feel like this group is not only for the Chicago community, but also for the volunteers involved. This is a great opportunity for people to network, and if someone can say that I saw an interesting event, or that I learned something today, or I got a job out of this, then I feel like we're doing something special as a group. My dad always taught me that as a minority, we have to help each other out. And by each other, I mean that I have to help a fellow Latin person. And that is what I want to do with this group. I want to help our community out. We've gone far to get to the University of Chicago, so why stop there?
Gabriel: Were you active in the Latino cultural groups on campus? If so, what did you do in those groups?
Leslie: My first year, I was testing out the waters. I was a member of MEChA because my friends were members, so I went along. For the OLAS group, I attended the culture show the first year, and knew I wanted to be part of it. So the second year, I became a member of OLAS. I ran for Vice-President my third year, and by my senior year I was Co-Chair. By then, I was fully involved in OLAS activities.
Gabriel: How does your Latin identity inform your life today?
Leslie: My Latin identity to me is tied with my immigrant identity. I am first generation, so it has been engrained my head that I have to do something to help people with my experience, if that makes any sense.
Gabriel: You feel a responsibility?
Leslie: I feel a huge responsibility. My parents came to the States for a reason, the freedom, the jobs, and they knew they wanted to have roots here. And they always reminded that they sacrificed a lot to for me to be here. So I could not disappoint! Which I don't think I did. But my Latin identity is everything to me. It's all I know.
Gabriel: Are you currently involved with other Chicago affinity groups?
Leslie: No. But that's to change. Being a part of the Latino affinity group is a good way to join other Chicago community groups, and also to form partnerships. I feel like I will be able to become more involved with the community through this.
Gabriel: How do you keep in contact with the Chicago community today?
Leslie: I have a group of Chicago friends that live in NY that I adore. And I still have friends back in Chicago I still keep in contact with. One of my pleasures is to scan the Chicago magazine for people I know, and if I read a name that rings a bell, sometimes I try to reach out.
Gabriel: In closing, is there anything else you would like to add?
Leslie: Yeah. Join the group! I want to be very clear. We are a Latino group, but we don't want to be a group just for Latinos. What I really want to carry over from OLAS was its mission to teach the University community about Latin culture, about who we are, and our history. But we are not just looking for Latin people to be involved. There's an open door, and we want everyone to participate.