Throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, Austin Community College District (ACC) asks influential and accomplished faculty and staff to discuss what Hispanic Heritage Month means to them and their advice for Hispanic/Latinx students.
Hector Aguayo is a master advisor at the Highland Campus and has been with Austin Community College for four years.
Why is it important to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month? How do you celebrate your heritage?
I studied Spanish Linguistics in college, because I wanted to keep my heritage alive. I understood from an early age that the Spanish language is commonly lost by the third generation of Hispanics living in the U.S.
Now, preparing and eating Hispanic food is how I usually celebrate my heritage. I like to learn how to make different dishes that have been passed down from generations like mole, pozole, caldo de res, ceviche, pastel de tres leches, flan, and much more — all while listening to some of my favorite cultural singers such as Juan Gabriel and Rocio Durcal.
What advice would you give to our Hispanic/Latinx students?
1. Practical advice: Seek help and don't disappear on your instructors if you're falling behind. Make appointments with your instructors to determine where you stand each step of the way or get the help you need to catch up with individual assistance. This will ensure that you are not just a number, and your instructor will notice your efforts and progress.
2. General advice: ¡Echa pa' lante, no mires pa' tras! Don't look back, keep moving forward. I felt like dropping my classes at some point every semester due to stress when I was a student. It was difficult, because I didn't have any guidance from my parents since I was the first in my family to attend college. I learned through trial-and-error, but the thing that kept me coming back every semester was the feeling of accomplishment I had after finishing a class. It takes work, but it feels good knowing you overcame something difficult.
What is your biggest inspiration?
My parents are my biggest inspiration. I come from an agricultural, migrant family. They were always supportive of me going to school, because they didn't want me to work in the fields. They knew education would break the cycle. I've always felt lucky that I had the option to seek higher education, because I knew others close to me didn't have it.
What is your proudest achievement?
Being a simultaneous interpreter and translator is my biggest achievement so far. I'm very proud of my language skill. I've used it to my advantage at every job I've had. It's gratifying and important for me to help non-English speakers when I can. I see their faces of gratitude and relief once they hear me speak Spanish, and I help out in a small, but meaningful, way.
How do you foster an inclusive environment?
Joining Hispanic organizations like Ascender/Catch the Next is one way I foster inclusivity. Ascender offers wraparound services that promote student success, just like I do. I help recruit students into the program, because it helps students stay motivated by being around like-minded individuals with similar goals. Their chances of completion are higher. Another way I foster inclusivity is by being an ally to the LGBTQIA community.