Maria Kristina Ballon: A Filipina at a Conference for Chicanas

MariaName: Maria Kristina Ballon

GEAR UP 4 LA School: Belmont High School

Summer Program: Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project (CLYLP)

The mission of Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project (CLYLP) is to better inform high school students about challenges in their community and inspire people to make differences. Throughout the conference many experienced Latinos shared their unique stories with the students. The stories of the speakers displayed similarities such as hardship and determination. This taught me that no matter what people face it is always possible to prevail through all adversity.

Before the conference, I worried about not being able to fit in. I was concerned that I would not be able to apply to a program called Chicano Latino because I am Filipino. I was relieved when I was informed that this conference was open to all ethnicities. Through this conference I further realized that Filipinos and Latinos share a lot in common.

Back in the Philippines I witnessed many young people not pursuing a higher education because of the need of supporting their family. Many are also unable to afford expensive universities, so instead people look for jobs. These are just two of the many troubles people of varying ethnicities face. I am glad that I decided to apply to CLYLP because now I know a lot more about the history of Latinos and successful individuals.

A similarity that the speakers shared was looking back to where they came from. They never forgot about their background because it made them who they are now. They did not forget to give back to those in the communities they grew up in. These people are advocating for change in their communities, not waiting for other to do it. They started change with themselves and eventually others began to do it as well. Together they were able to do so much more.

This is something that I would want to do in my community not just here in Los Angeles, but also in the Philippines.

The speakers really inspired me to attain a higher education, which was a thought that I never valued. Getting to hear about their struggles made me realize that I have many resources now that are helping me get to the path of a better education. I realized that a powerful way to make a difference was through education. The more education one has, the more influential they are capable of being. This was proved by the adults who continued to pursue their undergraduate and graduate degrees. Now, I am looking forward to the day I begin my own college experience.

I highly recommend this program to high school students because there was an abundance of positive things I was able to acquire. I was able to interact with new people, I was exposed to the battles people encountered in the past, and I had the chance to learn how to become a leader. I believe that any person who is thinking of joining this program will benefit from it. All participants were motivated to become leaders because we now know that we have the power to change unacceptable factors in our community.

Contrary to how I felt the first day, the people in my familia were truly welcoming. We got to know each other in such a short amount of time, and there was never a dull moment whenever we were together. In the span of three days we were encouraged to believe in everything we do. I became aware that the change begins with ourselves.