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I spent my first week at college camping throughout upstate New York, digging through mounds of dirt and mulch, picking potatoes and other vegetables while learning about farm life. It’s something I never imagined while growing up in South Los Angeles or going to school in Boyle Heights. My week-long orientation trip introduced me to the new environment I’ll be living in for the next four years at Hamilton College, a small liberal arts school.
Growing up, there were many times that I didn’t know if I’d make it to adulthood. I’m 18 years old now. I’ve come so far, and I still have so much further to go.
During high school, I dealt with a lot of personal issues. There were times when I felt alone and ashamed of my body. I had low self-esteem and let myself get taken advantage of. One of the things that helped me was becoming a youth reporter at Boyle Heights Beat.
Writing my first article and having it published made me realize that I could have an impact in my community. The story that really changed my life for the better was one about the LGBTQ+ community in Boyle Heights. It showed me that I wasn’t alone because I realized there were other people like me, and that I could help bring awareness for a community I was a part of.
With a newfound confidence, I took over the dying Gay Straight Alliance club at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School. I took that step after joining Mi Centro, the local LGBTQA+ center that I learned about through my reporting. The Bravo club grew, and I grew with it, too. With avid support from my amazing parents, who themselves became activists in support of my identity, I joined other clubs and organizations in and out of school. I finally felt like there was somewhere I belonged.
Earlier this year, I made the choice to leave the city where I was born and raised to move across the country and pursue a higher education. Making the choice to move so far from home was tough, especially considering I had just started establishing myself in my community. Yet I felt like I needed a change in my life.
It was difficult at first, but I began to adjust after a month living in the small upstate New York town of Clinton. Getting involved early has prevented me from getting too homesick, even though I do really miss my family and friends back home.
I’ve joined clubs and organizations similar to ones I was involved in back home. I’ve found a family of people with similar backgrounds with La Vanguardia, a club creating community and spreading awareness for the Latinx Community. I also joined the Queer Student Union in hopes of continuing my work for the LGBTQ+ community.
I am continuing my passion for writing through a writing job for the Communications Office at my school, using all the skills I learned over three years of writing for the Boyle Heights Beat.
I wrote around 30 articles at the Beat, covering topics ranging from local businesses and prominent figures in the community to communal events and issues. I gained extensive experience with photography, interviewing and writing.
In college, I have joined The Continental, my school’s magazine, to highlight campus life and student achievement. I have a second job making calls to former alumni to invite them to school events, update their contact information and raise money for the college.
As a student at a small liberal arts college, my learning experience has improved. In small classes, it’s a lot easier to be engaged and have conversations with my professors and fellow students. I love all of my classes, which include Japanese, English Literature & Ethics, Intro to Psychology and Intro to Economics.
Hamilton is about the same size as Bravo high school, so it’s a pretty small, tight-knit community. There are students from all across the United States and other countries, as well. It’s been really enlightening to meet people from all walks of life.
I really love it here. The town that I’m in is beautiful, the people at my school are friendly and outgoing and school administrators and faculty are always open to help. I think I made the right choice moving here, but I still can’t wait to come home to my family and friends in the winter.
All photos courtesy of Alex Medina.
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