Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15 every year to celebrate the history, culture, and many contributions that U.S Latinx and Hispanic communities have brought to American society. As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close, we wanted to highlight current student, Thomas Estrada’s story about what being a member of the Hispanic/Latinx community means to him.

Read his story below.

First, thank you to my Mexican Immigrant Parents. <3 Gracias por todo lo que han sacrificado para hacer posible Nuestros sueños. Los quiero a los dos hasta la luna y de vuelta.

To me, being Hispanic means to celebrate a vastly diverse community and culture, through empowerment, activism, and compassion. Each day I practice being Hispanic, by uplifting others, sharing our wonderful culture bursting with delicious food, singing to music that gets you dancing involuntarily, and laughing with my family until it hurts. All these aspects have shaped me into who I am today, and continue to lead my decision-making, as I aim to become El IngenierX studying Industrial Engineering & Operations Research, and a Champion for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Like many Mexican Immigrants, my parents immigrated to the US for a better future, and to help family back home. They have taught me to always remember our roots, to be grateful, compassionate, and altruistic. They have shaped me into a pillar for my family and community.

During my highschool years, I had the privilege of being a part of the SMASH Summer Math and Science Honors Academy, geared towards creating a level playing field for underrepresented students of color. There I had noticed the discrepancies between the education I received through summer enrichment, juxtaposing the lack of access to resources and opportunities within my predominantly Hispanic public school. As a SMASH Ambassador, I would tour and have dinner with potential donors to the program. As a result of my training and experience, I became familiar with the lack of diversity within STEM, and leaky STEM pipelines. This program left me with profound words of wisdom, “to whom much is given, much is expected,” and to “pay it forward.” Ever since SMASH, I have given back to each of my communities through mentorship, education, and advocacy.

During the pandemic, I took a hiatus from College to spend more time with my family, and give back to my community. I served through a local Charter School, Voices College Bound Language Academies, as a Bilingual 2nd grade Associate Teacher. There, I led enrichment with Code.org, exposing 2nd graders to programming and STEM studies early on. In addition, I’ve spent the past 5 summers helping segway incoming Freshman and Transfer Students into The College of Engineering through the PREP & T-PREP programs. I have most recently served as Head Design Assistant, for the Engineering Design Component of the program, and hope to continue my involvement, impacting more students each year.

Now, I am in UC Berkeley’s SHIP Chapter, Hispanic Engineers & Scientists, and I lead the Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers as VP of Outreach, where I hope to continue practicing inclusivity and creating opportunities for others. As a Hispanic, my dream is to empower others by walking my Parents across my graduation stage, and truly embody the phrase, ¡Sí se puede!

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Thomas!