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Nixon graduate finds acceptance of her ethnicity at UT in Austin
September 15, 2017
Racism, bigotry, discrimination: all issues that seem to occur daily despite laws that have been established.
With new U.S. president Donald Trump, some people say there has been a rise in the number of people who are being discriminated against, the majority being Mexican. This has given people with different ethnicities the fear to go out and live the American Dream. With this issue, the stereotypes about Mexican ethnicity have also increased.
One individual, Keilah Granados, has not let these issues put her dreams on hold but rather as her ambition to continue.
Keilah describes herself as Hispanic – Latina and part Salvadorian. She grew up in Laredo, Texas, a border town across the Rio Grande from Mexico.
Her description of her hometown is it has “a small town vibe.” Additionally, she describes Laredo as “small minded but always a place to call home.”
She is now a sophomore attending The University of Texas, one of the most diverse universities in Texas. Many say that it is difficult for college students to move away from home, but Keilah had a positive mindset towards this new chapter in her life.
“I am someone who does not give up on trying no matter what obstacles get thrown at me,” she said.
During high school, she was able to balance her job, her education, and extracurricular activities. Throughout her four years, she was in track, basketball, softball, cross-country, tennis, Crime Stoppers, National Honor Society, science fair, EDGE (Science Honor Society), student advisory, and yearbook. She held offices of vice president, treasurer, president, and captain in most of these activities.
Education in a bigger city
Keilah attended school and graduated from J.W. Nixon High School in Laredo, then decided to move to Austin to attend college.
This 2016 graduate decided to pursue a college degree in the medical field.
“I’m planning on majoring in Human Development and Family Services with a background of sociology and physiology,” Keilah said.
With this education, she plans to become a physician assistant, physiologist, or another career in this field.
Not only does she plan on taking this path but eventually in creative writing or rhetoric.
“I would like to publish my own poetry into books once I feel comfortable sharing it. It is currently in the works,” she said.
College comes with change
Although she moved just about 4 hours away from home, it was a big change.
“It was a big eye opener because Austin is a big open-minded city that keeps up with what is going on in today’s world, but Laredo is hugely outdated with a lot of issues. In Austin, I really have that opportunity that not many in Laredo get to see,” Keilah said.
Back home, Keilah had not experienced a time where she felt discriminated because of her ethnicity. It was not until she moved that Keilah realized that there was more to it than she had ever faced.
“The racism that we Hispanics do face within our own city is not so bad because we all have similar backgrounds. But when you move up, you actually face it and actually see people care about racism,” she said.
With time, Keilah was able to find organizations and people that have helped her grow into the person she is now. With her new environment, she has been able to become confident and proud of where she comes from.
“I love the fact that I was able to find a group of people at UT that are very proud to say where they come from. At first, I was embarrassed but then you start to realize that you should be proud. Especially if you hang out with people who embrace where they come from,” Keilah added.
Moving to a new city meant that she would receive better and different opportunities and she was eager for that.
“I was excited because I was finally out of Laredo. I knew I was going to a place where I would be able to relieve the real life issues that are going on and understand what others go through,” she said.
Along with the new people she met, living on campus has also been a factor in allowing her to adjust to change.
“Living on campus made me feel like I was able to grasp a lot of issues,” Keilah said.
She feels that there has been a change in herself that has led her to become more liberal than before.
“Coming from Laredo, I always knew that I was different than everyone else in a way. But, my mind has opened a lot,” Keilah said.
“Once I moved, I said I was gonna keep an open mind because once you go into college, you really do find yourself. You find your middle ground,” she added.
The people around her and their personalities including their past are different from those back home. Her experiences that she had growing up has helped her to relate and be aware of other people’s situations and past.
“The way I grew up and the difficulties I faced help me understand. Because of that, I am able to see where others come from and not judge them,” Keilah said.
Learning in a new environment
Not only is she receiving a higher education in a new city, but a better understanding of how the real world works.
“When I moved up further, it was more than just your home background. There was more racism and disabilities. People who have anxiety or depression. There is just a lot of things that go into people not being able to move on throughout their daily lives because something is holding them back,” she said.
Since Laredo is small city, it was surprising for her to learn that there are so many people from all different kinds of backgrounds and cultures. However, this did not negatively affect her judgment or attitude towards them, it only led her to understand where they come from.
“A campus full of 50,000 people from all over the world with different abilities, makes you really dig into not judging anyone by first impressions or on things they do not feel comfortable doing. I learned to appreciate other cultures that I see,” Keilah added.
Stereotypes can affect a student’s outlook
At first, it was hard for Keilah to adjust to the university due to her ethnicity and unique cultures. Being a Hispanic Latina-half-Salvadorian female, she felt there would be a lot of stereotypes and discrimination towards her.
“I think since it is a huge university, diverse and all, you might find yourself already feeling less when you walk into a room or even raising your hand to ask a question,” she said.
She said how coming from Laredo, she was not always as positive as others were due to these stereotypes.
“It was overwhelming because you feel like just another number. Coming from Laredo, you do pick up an accent that could make you feel less than others. But, you see others confident with their own accents, and it makes you feel better,” Keilah said.
These issues resulted in Keilah having doubts about her ability to accomplish her goals.
“There was always a little doubt in me saying, “You know what? What if I cannot do this? What if I am not smart enough? What if I cannot pursue being a doctor?” she said.
Keilah’s drive to be successful has allowed her to overcome the opposing voice inside her.
‘You just have to keep pushing and pushing and later on you will soon realize that you should be proud of where you come from,’ she said.
UT is home
Keilah has managed to see the positive side of this new chapter in her life and has been able to deal with anything headed her way due to the university she attends.
“When you move out, at first it is very overwhelming because you don’t know what you can do,” she said.
Despite the issues, the people in her new community at the university have helped Keilah feel comfortable and close to home.
“What I love about UT is that the students really try to make you feel like home. The students really care for each other and you will find your group there,” she said.
“You move out and go wherever you feel is home and I felt that UT was home for me,” Keilah added.