San Bernardino, Calif. -- Listening to students talk about life under the new presidential administration isn’t always easy. For a large number of students, the reality they once knew will not be the same moving forward.
Due to executive orders and recent action from the executive branch, undocumented students as well as those that came here legally as immigrants face new challenges.
One such student ready to take them head on, however, is Luis Esparza.
Esparza prides himself on being on a hard worker, with the intent to finish college strong and move quickly into the professional world.
When sharing openly about what he has gone through, a theme became consistent -- lack of support. While Esparza did credit his parents with helping him financially, their absence in emotional support has had a tremendous effect on his life.
Focusing on three areas of his life where he has experienced or is experiencing significant battles, Esparza pointed to his involvement in the LGBT community, his life as a student, and lastly his life as an immigrant.
(Next Slide: Being part of the LGBTQ community)
Being part of the LGBTQ community
Being part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community has given Luis a new perspective and reality.
The humiliation, fear and unacceptance from his family and society have certainly influenced his life. However, it is because of these challenges that he has become strong and confident in himself.
Esparza’s challenges as a member of the LGBTQ community can be seen through doubt, ignorance, and violent action.
His parents refuse to acknowledge his sexuality, President Trump’s administration disapproves of same-sex marriage, and in June of 2016, one of America’s most terrifying shootings occurred at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
With so much negativity surrounding the topic, Luis had to reinvent his thoughts and view the community in a positive light. He realized that he LGBTQ community is yet another place to call home.
For many people, the LGBTQ community is a way to share similar stories and feel a sense of belonging. Having friends, colleagues and even co-workers that are gay provide him a comfort vibe that only this particular community can relate too.
Graduate-to-be in June 2017, Luis has proved many that his sexuality does not define who he is, instead it enhances his character and gives him more reason so destroy common stereotypes.
Luis is very proud of who he is and although a challenge at first, he now uses this factor as motivation to be the most authentic version of himself; regardless of what others judge him to be.
(Next Slide: More than just an immigrant)
More than just an immigrant
In addition to what he goes through as a student and as a member of the LGBTQ community, Esparza fights a unique fight as an immigrant.
His family hails from a ranch near Guadalajara, Mexico, and came to the United States in 1999. Since then, life hasn't always been easy, but he has found a way to make it work.
Culturally, Esparza expressed that he does not identify with the "macho" perception of men that he grew up with. This factored into him coming out via social media, but has also affected how the rest of his family sees him regardless of sexual orientation.
He lacks a closeness with his immediate family that he wishes was better, particularly with his brothers.
Because of how immigrants have been and will likely continue to be treated under the current president, Esparza felt compelled to share a word of encouragement to others in similar situations.
"[I want to] empower them to empower themselves," he said, speaking on the fear that comes to mind for many students with immigrant families.
Esparza continued, "they can lose that fear be being themselves."
Going through life as an immigrant in the workplace provides Esparza with hope for the future.
In commenting on his time working at AMC, the embrace of those that work with him have meant the world.
Making a difference on campus and at work is something that he wants to see become an everyday occurrence. Working with the public is one thing, but he also works as part of a student-run media conglomerate -- The Coyote Pack.
Changing the perception of students like him is an uphill battle and something he is willing to take head on and one step at a time. Realizing that the conversation starts and stops with him, he hopes that his storied achievements won't be diminished due to demographics.
Instead, the goal is to do just the opposite.
(Next Slide: Having the student perspective)
Having the student perspective
Luis Esparza is a Communications student at California State University, San Bernardino.
Esparza struggled with relatives that had doubts of him ditching the drug and alcohol lifestyle and leading an opposite lifestyle filled with success instead.
Much of his family has rejected him ever since he confessed his orientation which he eventually made CSUSB his new home. While at CSUSB, he has found a new family within the LGBT community which he has been seeking since the rejection of his biological family.
Despite finding a safe space on campus, he still deals with faculty members that have misgivings for him. A situation occurred where he asked a professor for information about obtaining a certificate in Spanish but was turned away stating “you can’t do it, it’s too late for you!”
However, he manages to obtain information on when to obtain that certificate thanks to faculty member Sarah de Moss who also provided him with encouragement.
The professor that had misgivings about Esparza eventually changes her perception about him after going to a conference in Riverside with Professor Gallegos.
Amidst the expectations from his family, doubts from faculty, and mediated stereotypes about Latinos, he manages to make his way to higher education and potentially graduating with his degree.
Esparza continues to pursue his higher education with the goal of obtaining a Master’s degree.
(Next Slide: Final thoughts)
In closing, the important thing to remember through Luis' story is that perseverance pays off. Instead of always seeing the struggle, he's proven that he is determined to find the silver lining.
With his upcoming graduation from California State University, San Bernardino, Esparza will further his conquest of what's to come.
He connects with being part of the LGBT, student, and immigrant communities -- but that isn't his end game. Rather, an inclusive, welcoming environment is what he wants for everyone.
Battling the stigma that comes with culture, Esparza is willing to fight alongside whoever wishes to join him.
And he's ready to fight that fight at any point that he needs to.