Keynote Moment: What I Shared with Teenagers on Latino Achievement Night


Last night, I had the pleasure of meeting honor student Alicia Fisher at the Latino Achievement Night ceremony at Castro Valley High School. This young activist got up on stage and unapologetically called out the decades of systemic bias that Latino students have experienced, being advised away from the college-prep track and into vocational and immediate employment scenarios. She shot down the myth that Latino families do not care about higher education. And she introduced her padrino Fernando who was steered away from college by his high school counselor in the 1950s.

I was very moved by her speech and her powerful voice that questioned “Where’s the literature that shows how much my people have contributed to the making of the USA?”

Then Alicia introduced me as the evening’s keynote speaker and I had about 12 minutes to share tiny slices of my educational and professional journeys, while relating lessons learned and advice back to the teens’ lives.

I built the speech around my favorite theme: high expectations. Here are the three KEY MESSAGES I selected after wrestling with many different ones:

  1. Adopt a high expectations mindset and REBEL against low expectations
  2. Scare yourself with challenges – on the other side of fear and terror is the best version of yourself
  3. Bring your FULL authentic, ambicultural self into everything you do, everywhere. Be grateful and proud of your heritage and cultural mix…ALWAYS. It’s what will differentiate you wherever you decide to apply  your talent.

Curious? You can download my keynote remarks at the top of the page here…and share these messages with a Latino tween or teenager in YOUR life.

Alicia and I met after the event. To answer her question about “where’s the literature?” (and to encourage her to become a creator of the literature we both want to see in the world), I gifted her a copy of the literature my company is publishing that showcases the positive contributions of Latinos in the USA. It was a total hugfest after that…it’s what happens when you meet a kindred spirit.

Oh, and Alicia’s padrino? Fernando decided to write his own life script. He ultimately graduated from U.C. Berkeley’s Law School and practiced law for over 30 years. She had him stand up and the crowd went crazy with applause and orgullo.

I’m so happy to have met this young lady. I can’t wait to see who Alicia Fisher is going to become!

Thank you principal Blaine Torpey for the honor of addressing these exemplary students and their parents. That my daughter was among the hundreds of students honored was the cherry on top for this proud mamá

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2 Responses to Keynote Moment: What I Shared with Teenagers on Latino Achievement Night

  1. Ann Matranga says:

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing this story Graciela!

  2. grace says:

    You’re so welcome Ann. I’m traveling so much serving my fellow veterans and loving it that I’m not writing this year… trying to change that. 🙂

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