Puerto Rican Scholarship: Seniors Reflect on Clemente’s Role in Their Cultural Development

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This week several Clemente seniors reflected on their experience as Puerto Rican Americans as they applied for the Puerto Rican Day Parade Scholarship. This scholarship is awarded to students of Puerto Rican descent who have strong academic backgrounds and have participated in service to their community. The scholarship organization asks students to write a short biography about themselves and an essay about their connection to Puerto Rican culture. As they wrote about their experiences, one theme continued to come up –  the importance that Roberto Clemente Community Academy has had in their development as a Puerto Rican American. Here are some of the excerpts of their essays:

“My high school, Roberto Clemente Community Academy, also has kept me in touch with my Puerto Rican heritage. Although Clemente has students from all races and backgrounds, there are many Puerto Rican students. Not so long ago, I met a new person after school and didn’t know she was Puerto Rican. Once we started to talk, I recognized the accent she had.  Our conversation in Spanish brought me back to the moments with my friends back in Puerto Rico, telling each other our ‘chismes’. Meeting other Puerto Rican students makes me feel more connected to my community and school. Each year, my school is also part of the Puerto Rican parade. It means a lot to know that my school supports me in my cultural traditions to help me feel at home. For me, it is important to hold on to culture and continue to practice customs from [my] homeland. I will always hold onto my Puerto Rican culture, and I will teach the next generation to do the same.”

Kate Arzuaga

“The school I attend is in a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood, with mainly Puerto Rican students. It’s even named after a famous Puerto Rican baseball player! There is much [more] ties to the Puerto Rican culture than many realize within Roberto Clemente Community Academy. We do field trips and community service projects that help our community and those around us. If I’m not taught or reminded about who I am at home, then I am reminded about myself and my background when I come to school. The culture at Roberto Clemente Community Academy continues to help define me and teaches me something new about myself and where I come from every single day.”

– Ashley Arroyo

“The Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago has been my home for the past seventeen years and it’s the best place for me to be. When I started high school, I did not feel comfortable because I was not in the best place for me personally. Then I transferred to Roberto Clemente and everyone was so welcoming. Over the next three years, school [became] much better because Clemente has presented me with many great opportunities. Because of my school, I was able to have an internship in the community of Humboldt Park at Norwegian American Hospital. I was also able to work at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. This was one of the best experiences I have ever had and it is because of Clemente.”