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.
Privett Global Scholars
Because teamwork makes the dream work.
Being far from home and integrating yourself into a new culture is challenging and intimidating to say the least. It takes a lot of time and a lot of trust in the process–there’s no one moment when you are completely integrated or completely comfortable. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn about yourself because you’re in an environment in which it is okay to ask a trillion questions and be confused. I’d like to say that my transition has been flawless and brag about how good I am at picking up local lingo, but the truth is that living in Cochabamba has turned me into a confused extranjera who always has to ask for guidance, which is so different from the self-sufficient, U.S. me. I’d also like to say that I’ve done it all on my own, but again the truth is that I’ve had lots of help from my peers, the site team, my host family, friends and kind strangers.
I work with Movimiento Sonrisa and my job is to go around the pediatric wards of the very run-down Hospital Viedma and play with the children and make them laugh. Loving them is not in my job description but I do it anyway. It’s impossible not to love every single one of them and want to cover them in bubble wrap and store them in my suitcase so they never get hurt again. There’s a certain magic to working with children. The power dynamic is interesting because you know you hold authority over them because you’re older, but they know that they hold a certain power over you because they’re little and sick. They have a way of opening you up and making you vulnerable that allows you to get out of your head and be your true self. I love working with them and I love reflecting on the way I act when I’m with them as opposed to the way I act in other settings. I d0n’t have any pictures with them because I have a real problem with volunteers who take photos with children for show. They aren’t a circus attraction, they’re tiny humans who would rather you interact with them than post about them on your summer blog.