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Growing up in a family of strong Puerto Rican women, professional networking events and conferences are nothing new to me. From National Hispanic Institute, Carolina Women in Business Panels, and commercial real estate internships, expanding my name and network is something very valuable to me. From an early age, I was fortunate enough to have been taught the importance of formulating my own strong professional foundation and image as a Latina. I grew up understanding that unlike some of my peers, simply being a woman of color emphasized the work I had cut out for myself.

Recently, I was given the wonderful opportunity to not only work but also attend our annual La Conferencia 2023 hosted by our team at the Carolina Latinx Center. Historically, as a Latinx community, environments where we can grow as professionals and have access to the same tools some of our peers, friends, and coworkers have been very limited. Resources such as headshot sessions, graduate school coaches, resume advisors, and even points of contact in the fields in which we intend to pursue are out of reach for more Latino/a/e/x’s than not.

Nonetheless, attending the different sessions offered and connecting with so many Latinos from different areas was a memorable experience. As a Boricua one thing I have noticed since coming to UNC is that the community of Puerto Ricans here is very small and limited. Unlike other groups on campus nuestra comunidad de Boricuas isn’t very big and often I find that in certain spaces I am the only one or one of very few. That said, attending the financial planning panel this past weekend led by two powerful Boricua NC State University alumnae was very impactful for me. Seeing not only two women but two women of color like myself leading a conversation that many of us stray away from and be vulnerable with their own experiences about debt, investments, and guidance on financial planning was reassuring and motivated me to investigate things I had not thought of before.

Alongside the financial planning session, the panel on mental health was another session from which I took so much away. As Latinos, mental health is a topic we, unfortunately, stigmatize ourselves and often completely avoid. “Yo no creo en eso”, “Terapia es para locos”, “Ora a Dios y eso te curará todos tus problemas”, “Yo he pasado mucho más y estoy bien” are all just some of the phrases I’m sure many of us have heard when the conversation regarding mental wellness comes up. Whether it be a result of generational trauma dumping or simply a continuation of not educating ourselves and those around us well enough to deal with mental health we feed into the cycle of stigmatization rather than education. Hearing as each professional shared their experience and the duality between culture and mental health provided and judgment-free space for us to not only listen but understand.

Overall, this year’s Conferencia was an experience I will not forget and each session taught me something valuable I will take with me for the rest of my career at Carolina and beyond.

¡Muchas gracias a todos los que asistieron y espero verlos el año que viene!

Un abrazo,