Throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, Austin Community College District (ACC) sits down with influential and accomplished faculty and staff to discuss what Hispanic Heritage Month means to them.
Meet Alejandra Polcik, the manager of Hispanic Outreach Projects. She has worked at ACC for 12 years.
Why is it important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, and how do you celebrate your heritage?
It is important because we are part of the social fabric of this country; despite all of the political controversy and stigma, we are part of this country's story, and we are an essential demographic group in the future of this country. I often celebrate throughout the year; on different occasions, I share my culture with my friends and family by cooking typical dishes and listening to beautiful Latin music. With my students, we collaborate on events that are fun and at the same time academic, like the Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors event we did with Student Life.
What advice would you give to our Hispanic/Latinx students?
I want to tell them to be proud of being Latinx and show the world that we are awesome! And please, invest in your education; for parents, education is the best herencia/legacy, and to students, education is the key to access the best version of yourself.
What is your biggest inspiration?
The students inspire me, and I learn so much from them! They are hard workers, and despite everything, they always manage to have the best attitude. Another one of my big inspirations is Frida Kahlo. I tell my daughters, "In a world of Kardashians, be a Kahlo." She was an original; she was not afraid to show her passion and her uniqueness through her art.
What is your proudest achievement?
One of my proudest achievements is being able to go to college while being a mom! I am also very proud to work here at ACC; I love helping students. I believe in the power of education and doing things with corazón/heart.
What is your role at the college?
I am the Manager of Hispanic Outreach Projects, and in our department, our focus is on the success of students and increasing the number of Latinos who finish college. Latinos have lower levels of degree attainment compared to other groups, so it is my mission to help students transfer to four-year institutions and return to us as community leaders and mentors. Many of our students are first-generation students, meaning that they are the first in the families to attend college, and I make sure that their parents understand our messages in our language while applying our culture and values.
How do you foster an inclusive environment?
By including everybody, not only Latinos, many people think that Ascender is a program for Latinos only, but that is not the case. We welcome everybody, we are happy to have students from different backgrounds and ethnicities who want to learn more about our culture, we are happy to know more about other cultures and we are happy to share ours with the world.