Latino Leadership Pipeline Finalists honored on campus

Goizueta Foundation funds 25 scholarships for future global leaders


Leadership at Hiram High School looks like Adam Reyes, the captain of the marching band’s drumline. At Providence Christian Academy in Lilburn, it’s Michael Turner, the captain of the tennis team. At Alpharetta High School, it’s Alisa Gonzalez’s work with the National Art Honor Society to promote academic excellence in the arts.

Those three high school seniors were among this month’s 69 finalists for the 25 new Latino Leadership Pipeline Scholarships funded through the Goizueta Foundation. The scholarships are part of a $4.998 million gift to recruit, retain and graduate Latino students and prepare them as global leaders.

The majority of the finalists were interviewed earlier this month, and questions centered on leadership, service to the community, identity as a Latino or Latina, and commitment to the educational pipeline. Their answers reflected a diversity of experiences.

“I have felt that I have lost part of my identity as Hispanic because I am not around many people like me in my school, especially only one or two other Puerto Ricans,” said Reyes, whose parents are from that country.

They exposed him to percussive music from Puerto Rico that evolved into him playing the second bass drum in the marching band. “I would love to get to know more about that part of me through this scholarship,” Reyes said.

Likewise for Turner, who has become more interested in exploring his heritage through his mother Martha’s Colombian family. “I feel like this [scholarship program]is an opportunity to learn from other cultures,” he said. At GSU, he is interested in studio art, graphic design and marketing.

“I identify with the challenges,” said Gonzalez, whose father is from Colombia and her mother is from Argentina, and would like to study marketing and advertising.

“I saw the issues in Arizona [with restrictive legislation against immigrants]and got fired up,” she said. “It’s not equal or fair, even though it didn’t affect me. Something needs to be done. But [being Latino]is not my entire being, because I wasn’t born and raised in a Latin country.”

GSU President Mark P. Becker said the Latino Leadership Pipeline program helps the university advance its top strategic goal: becoming a national model for undergraduate education by showing that students from all backgrounds can achieve success.

“At GSU, diversity works,” he said at a luncheon speech. GSU is fulfilling needs in an increasingly globalized workforce for graduates “who are expert and facile at working in teams, working with people who look like you or not,” he said.

A previous Goizueta Scholarship recipient, Isela Rodriguez (B.S., 2011), challenged the finalists to seek out opportunities to lead, following her model as an undergraduate and now as a GSU chemistry researcher preparing for medical school.

Recently she was a volunteer speaker about math in everyday life at an Atlanta elementary school that is majority Latino.

“It was not my responsibility to be there. I was not being paid to be there. But I needed to be there because those kids needed to see someone like me,” she said. “These kids were so excited to learn, but I could tell that these kids were more impressed about the educated Latina giving this presentation.

“I want every single scholar in this room to achieve everything thing I did and much more. I want you to educate yourself, motivate yourself, and think for yourself,” she said. “Become a leader and make a difference. Take full advantage of the opportunities that are given, because anything and everything is possible if you set your mind on it.”

Keynote speaker Michael Hinojosa, the superintendent of Cobb County School District, urged the students to become role models not just among Latino communities, “but for kids who aren’t Latino, so they can see us in positions of responsibility, so they will have a different stereotype of what we are like,” he said as the crowd interrupted with applause.

“You have an awesome responsibility to bring others forward,” he added.

—By Michelle Hiskey; Contact Kim Cretors, (404) 413-3424