by Esther Brown | Staff Writer
Silvia Esparza, a first generation Hispanic student, is a first-year with her own story of challenges, perseverance and dreams. First-generation and ethnic minority students have historically faced their own set of unique challenges in academic settings. As the number of minority students increase on campus, the Whitworth community gains more opportunities to learn about various cultures and backgrounds such as Esparza’s.
Esparza’s family moved from Durango, Mexico to Quincy, Washington when she was 4 years old. Similar to many immigrant families, the Esparza family hoped that moving to the United States would open doors for future opportunities in their children’s education and future careers.
To her family, Esparza coming to Whitworth means “endless opportunities,” which is the same reason her family moved in the first place. In order to reach Whitworth and chase her dreams, Esparza has had to persevere and work hard in many aspects of her life.
“[Even though] challenges have come my way, I don’t really see them as challenges but as stepping stones,” Esparza said.
Finding a way to pay for a private school like Whitworth was one hurdle she faced. Esparza followed her sister’s example of paying for a higher education through scholarships. One such scholarship Esparza received was through The Association of Washington Cities. She was given the opportunity to speak at the scholarship luncheon and was proud to represent youth Latinas.
Esparza’s abundance of scholarships are results of her determination and hard work in high school. For two years, she served as a Youth Representative for the city of Quincy. In addition to working with their coalition, Esparza spearheaded a suicide prevention program at her high school. The program worked on creating an environment of belonging and establishing tools for teachers and students to connect with each other in times of need.
“Battling with my own mental health issues, I felt like it was my duty in that position to use my voice and really advocate for what I believe in, and in what many people have gone through… especially as high school students,” Esparza said. “It was something I just poured out from myself to the community.”
Esparza also faced challenges with her family. She felt discouragement from her family in regard to her plans to attend Whitworth because they’d rather she attend community college instead.
“I really had to advocate for myself to my parents that this decision was going to be mine… when they really saw my passion to be here, they went along with it,” Esparza said.
Currently, Esparza is majoring in elementary education in order to become a teacher in STEM. Her steps after college are still undecided, although she does have some ideas. One option is to go straight into teaching or to continue her education and get a masters in administration. Esparza’s goal is to work as an administrator to effect change in students and serve families in the school district. Afterwards, her ideal is to work in policy making to help create better policies that accommodate for students who need assistance.
Right now, Esparza is focusing on her transition from the small city of Quincy to Spokane. So far her experience has been “a little rocky” due to unexpected homesickness. However, Esparza has a positive outlook and has enjoyed the close community of Whitworth.
“Everyone is very friendly and kind, I really enjoy the energy everybody gives off,” Esparza said. “You don’t feel as much of a stranger, because it was one of my fears we would come here and be a nobody even though back home, we were somebody.”
While she is eager to forge ahead and shape her future, Esparza said she has been learning to appreciate this time of transition.