My name is Kristian Olvera and on June 6, 2019, I graduated from La Salle Academy as Valedictorian of my class. As a student, I was academically diligent and civically active in our school’s community, having served as Class President during my sophomore and junior years and as President of Student Government during my senior year.
I was accepted to 21 colleges and universities in the New York City area and beyond and I earned over $1.2 million in scholarship money and financial aid to attend some of those schools. I am the first in my family to ever go to college and I plan on making a positive impact on my society. I am proud to announce that in the fall, I will be attending Villanova University on a full-ride scholarship.
But guess what?
None of this came easy to me.
I am a male Hispanic teenager who defies all pre-conceived notions of being a teen minority. My Ecuadorian and Mexican backgrounds were something that I never really saw as different, but as I entered school, I became more aware of my identity and began to experience the societal misconceptions of being Latino.
My peers from middle school always called me, “a stupid Mexican who wouldn’t amount to anything.” I was always left out from social interactions because, according to my classmates, I was “a nerd” and “didn’t deserve to be in this country.” They constantly overlooked the other half of my ethnicity and the simple fact that I, like them, am a human being. By the time I graduated from middle school, I accepted my ethnicity as something that I had no control over and must live with forever. Nevertheless, I still struggled with this identity as I entered high school.
When I started high school, I saw that I was similar to my peers, as Hispanic students make up the majority of La Salle Academy. During freshman year, I still held some resentment toward my background, but my peers’ cultural identities and my new membership in the National Hispanic Institute enabled me to feel pride for my family’s heritage and culture. Through the National Hispanic Institute, I was made more aware of issues that Latin American countries face, and I broke out of my shell to become the leader I am today. I want to create more unity among Latino people because I know that if we are united, we can foster great change.
My family has been my chief motivator throughout my life. My parents never had the opportunities that I do, but they always pushed themselves so that I could have a better life than they did. They instilled in me that diligence and education are important. They helped create the foundation for my Latino pride at a young age and encouraged me to use it as motivation.
My uncle’s incarceration also motivates me. Although he is incarcerated, his pursuit of a Ph.D. has encouraged me to pursue higher education and not fall victim to the stereotypes of being Hispanic. His pursuit of education, despite his situation, has inspired me to pursue a career in law. I want to disrupt the status quo in prisons and create an education system that addresses everyone, especially minorities.
My pride in my Latino community has motivated me to this day and it will continue for the rest of my life. In my future, throughout college and my career, before making any big decisions, I will always ask myself, “How can this give me the ability to aid my community and fellow minorities?” I am very proud of my Latino identity. It is what will push me to thrive in college and life. I have faced discrimination for being me and I know that it will continue, but such experiences will not discourage me from being a proud Hispanic who will achieve my goals.
As you can see, it’s not easy being me… but the challenge to rise above is what holds the highest value to me.
I am infinitely grateful for my time as a student at La Salle Academy, one of the most diverse all-boys Catholic high schools in New York City. Without this experience, I may not have felt comfortable in my own skin as a minority, and I may not have developed the skills to become a leader among my peers. Growing up as an only child, I never had siblings, but La Salle helped me meet people who I know are my brothers now. Together, we received a Lasallian Catholic education that will stick with us forever. It has instilled in us morals that have helped us to develop and grow into the men we truly want to be.
On behalf of my classmates, I want to thank the La Salle Academy community for giving us this opportunity to succeed. Without the support of our benefactors, many of us would not have been able to attend La Salle, which has prepared us for the rigors of higher education at some of the best four-year universities in the country. Amazingly, my graduating class, consisting of 73 students, collectively earned more than $21 million college scholarships this year, compared to $3.5 million in 2016.
It all started here for us, but this mission must continue for future Brothers’ Boys at La Salle. Please consider making a gift to La Salle’s annual fund. More than 90% of La Salle’s student body receives scholarship aid to help defray the cost of tuition, which has risen to $11,000 for incoming freshmen in the 2019-20 academic year. On average, students’ families pay $4,000 per year, and yet it costs La Salle nearly $18,000 to educate each student. Your gift will not only bridge that gap, but it will be an important investment to future La Salle boys.
Thank you for helping us defy the odds and achieve success. Thank you for helping La Salle.
Kristian Olvera ‘19