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Latinx Graduate Celebrates Her Cultural Identity and Diversity

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Graduate Lesley Aguirre’s roots are Mexican and Ecuadorian. Her mother was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, and her father in Quito, Ecuador. Both left their home countries as young adults to make new lives in the United States.

In addition to her academic achievement of being the first in her family to graduate from college, Aguirre holds these Latinx cultures close and celebrates both with pride.

But this year is a little different due to the coronavirus pandemic; in-person cultural recognition celebrations traditionally organized by the university’s cultural centers, departments and faculty, staff and student associations during commencement season were not held.

Instead, Aguirre and other diverse graduates of the African American, Asian Pacific Islander and Desi American, Chicanx/Latinx, Dreamer, LGBTQ and Pilipinx communities took to social media to celebrate their achievements.

Hello! My name is Lesley Aguirre and I recently graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre … My passion for arts education propels me to be a dedicated advocate for historically underserved and underrepresented populations in the performing arts industry and higher education. @lesleythevillager

As a college student, Aguirre found comfort and connection to her cultural identity because of places like the Diversity Initiatives and Resource Centers and the opportunity to produce “Real Women Have Curves,” by Josefina López.

How did getting involved on campus help you in your college journey?
At the center, I am free to speak my language with others and discuss shared experiences as people of color in the education system. I decided to push myself to become more involved with my community by serving as a volunteer at the center. I realized that my identity and culture, and my passion for theater, could come together to create beautiful art. I started by holding activism film screenings, where I was able to facilitate open discussions and incorporate my knowledge of performance with my culture. From my involvement, I learned that my greater purpose and objective was not only to be a storyteller within the performing arts, but to be an advocate for underrepresented communities in the higher education environment. The center also has given me opportunities to share my voice and educated me on how to amplify the voices of others.

How did CSUF prepare you for your future?
CSUF prepared me by giving me a space where I was able to make mistakes, learn from them and succeed. The mentorship from faculty and staff is what propels me towards my future career in student affairs and what motivates me to #ReachHigher in everything I do.

What is your favorite college memory?
My favorite college experience was the opportunity to work with my department chair to bring in a Latinx production to our theater season. In fall 2019, we produced “Oedipus El Rey,” by Luis Alfaro, and I was fortunate enough to be the assistant director. The production brought together the CSUF Latinx community and almost every single show was sold out because it highlighted the beauty of Latinx culture and told our stories on the stage. Our hard work did not go unnoticed because we were asked to showcase our production at the Region VIII Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. At the regional festival, which was held on campus in February, we received high praise from distinguished theater professionals and members of the Latinx community. This experience was incredibly validating because it proved to me that our gente’s (people’s) stories deserve to be on that stage and authentically told.

What are your plans after graduation?
I am humbled to say that I have been accepted into four high-ranking graduate programs for student affairs. In the fall, I have decided to attend San Diego State’s master’s program in postsecondary educational leadership, with an emphasis in student affairs. I would love to one day work with marginalized and underrepresented communities at a university.

Contact: Debra Cano Ramos,