“I triple majored in English, Latin American Studies and Ethnic Studies. I also worked as a mentor at Hunter High School as part of the federal GEAR UP program for three years while I attended the U.
For my capstone project through the Ethnic Studies Program, I brought my GEAR UP students to the University of Utah on a field trip where they were introduced to the Ethnic Studies Program and participated in a variety of activities.
I think a lot of our students who are first-generation, or immigrants, or students of color, struggle to envision themselves at colleges or universities. Those of us in privileged positions are obligated to change that. I wanted to give back and give them an experience that helped them envision themselves in college or at a university.
I feel very honored to be able to reciprocate what I’ve been given throughout my experience in high school and in college. It has been very difficult, but there have always been people there to help me navigate that.
Sometimes, there should be more programs and support. But, I think the best way to change the campus environment and campus culture when it comes to first-gen students and students of color is to really bring more students of color to our campus.
One huge way we can really make an impact on our campus community is by opening up spaces and doing outreach with local high schools, especially schools on the west side, where there are many students of color — having them come here, having them create and envision change.
To create a sustainable path and trajectory for students to pursue post-secondary education, we need to change these education systems. They’re very difficult to navigate. But when there are people present who want to make a change in another person’s college experiences then, even if it’s hard, you can get through it. I think that’s one of my biggest takeaways from college. So to be able to generate the sort of project and a sort of energy that reflects this takeaway of mine, I’ve been very honored to be able to do that.”
—Sandra Del Rio Madrigal, 2023 University of Utah graduate