Sonia Hurtado Ureno, Sociology and Latin American Studies ’17
2017 Leo T. McCarthy Award for Public Service Award Winner
My identities as a low income, first generation Latina have heavily shaped my experiences navigating the K-12 and higher education system. Through my involvement with the Leo T. McCarthy Center, I came to better understand my story in relation to larger systems of oppression. I have come to see myself as both a global and local activist scholar and someone who is committed to community engagement.
In my second year, I participated in the Privett Global Scholars Program, a year-long program that involves community-based sustainable development projects abroad. I collaborated with Bolivian community members to create and lead workshops on protection rights for children with the grassroots organization, Aldeas Infantiles SOS. For my final research paper, I conducted a case study on Bolivia’s educational system and examined whether a western-based educational system could appropriately honor the epistemologies of the indigenous people in Bolivia. Writing my final paper was a transformational experience for me as a writer and scholar. I discovered that I could use my knowledge and skills to better understand systems of oppression and to bring awareness to the experiences of the marginalized domestically and abroad. Furthermore, I learned to recognize community assets and use those as a foundation to continue to make an impact.
Most recently, I have had the honor of being an Advocate for Community Engagement (ACE). As an ACE, I work with a team of eleven to support an array of local non-profits, USF faculty, and students in service learning courses. I work directly with Mission Graduates, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increase college access and success to students in the Mission District. There, I have collaborated with the staff to support twenty-five first-generation students with their college applications. These opportunities have contributed to my own growth as an educator. I’ve learned that education is not just about merit, but also about helping others develop their voices and their own definitions of success.
I plan to remain engaged in public service and committed to social justice after graduation by continuing to support first-generation college students and people of color in any space that I may find myself in. I will continue to collaborate with and challenge others in my workspace to address institutional inequalities and create resources for marginalized communities.