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How Alejandra Gonzalez Embodies Her Hispanic Heritage

Alejandra Gonzalez, originally from Guatemala City, arrived in the United States at the age of 16 and began attending Dater High School. Being new to Cincinnati, Ohio and the United States, she faced numerous challenges including language barriers and a shift in culture leading her to learn the importance of holding onto her heritage while gaining an education in the U.S.  

gonzalez 2024Gonzalez's high school experience began with three months of English as a Second Language classes before transitioning to classes with English-speaking students. Despite the language barrier, she demonstrated extraordinary resilience to graduate in the top ten percent of her class. 

Gonzalez received crucial support from Sarah Madrigal, CPS School Social Worker. “I don't know how my life would be if she didn't come to me, if she didn't help me,” Gonzalez said. “I felt like I was under water when she came to help me.”

Thanks to help from Madrigal, Gonzalez not only learned English and adapted to her new home, but  returned to CPS’ Western Hills High School to support students with similar challenges. As a Paraprofessional, one of the key themes Gonzalez emphasizes is the importance of celebrating Hispanic heritage to acknowledge the struggles and triumphs of the immigrant experience. Gonzalez encourages students to bring clothing and food from their home countries to school, promoting pride in their heritage. Knowing firsthand the difficulties students face when separated from their families and trying to communicate in a foreign land, she believes their shared heritage can serve as a source of strength, unity and hope. 

“I encourage the ESL students, not only Latinos, but people from everywhere, to get their diploma, to work hard at school,” Gonzalez says. “Because they will graduate with knowledge. That is something that nobody is going to take away from them.”