Hispanic Heritage Month: Student Q&As

October 4, 2022

Meet Paulina Sanchez

Paulina is working on her master’s degree in accounting. Fueled by her passion to help others learn about finance, at 18 she opened her first credit card to build her credit score. Today, she teaches her relatives and friends everything she’s learned and aspires to open a financial consulting firm for people of color someday.

Why is Hispanic Heritage Month meaningful to you? 

Since the age of two, I have been part of the Mexican folklore dance school “Baila Conmigo.” Dance has meant so much to me because it allowed me to connect with my culture. Now, my young nephews are enrolled in the dance school and that makes me smile.

What type of work are you involved in at CU Denver that impacts the Hispanic community? 

I’ve been working in the Office of Admissions for almost a year providing tours in English and Spanish. My mother was the force behind me learning Spanish since I was little. She would always say to me, “Mi’ja, you must learn. It’s part of your culture.”

How has studying, teaching, or working at CU Denver impacted you? 

Thanks to the Displaced Aurarian Scholarship, I have been able to pursue my master’s degree in accounting. Once it became available to all descendants of the Aurarian community, I had the opportunity to add a minor as well. One of my career goals is to help my sister open a mechanic shop. Since it’s known to be a predominantly male field, I am inspired even more to help her. I believe women are talented and can do the job, too. My sister will provide the auto service, while I manage the accounting.


Meet Val Gonzalez

Val’s ethnic background is Mexican. His paternal grandfather and grandmother were from Chihuahua, Mexico, and his mother’s family is from New Mexico before the time of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. For over 20 years, he was a civil rights investigator and is currently studying math in hopes of becoming an international professor. 

Why is Hispanic Heritage Month meaningful to you? 

For me, Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to reflect upon where my family came from and where we are going. I enjoy some of the activities when I can and love the music and food, but especially as I get older, I feel connected more and more to those who came before me and trying to be a good example for those who will follow me.

What type of work are you involved in at CU Denver that impacts the Hispanic community? 

My involvement in the Hispanic community is very direct; I coach high school volleyball for boys and girls at DSST: College View High School, a predominately Hispanic school in southwest Denver. I have done this for the last 10 years. Go Wolves!

How has studying, teaching, or working at CU Denver impacted you? 

My studies at CU Denver have impacted my life greatly, this has allowed me to retire and pursue my “second act.” After finishing my career, I look forward to attaining my master’s degree and pursuing a new career as a university math professor. CU Denver and the Displaced Aurarian Scholarship have made this a reality.


Meet Yahaira Hernandez

Yahaira considers herself fierce when it comes to her educational pursuit. She is a first-generation undergraduate college student studying psychology with two minors, in victims’ services and human development and family relations. She is also working to obtain a certificate in Spanish international business. 

Why is Hispanic Heritage Month meaningful to you? 

It’s important to me because it serves as an opportunity for individuals from different ethnic communities and races to learn more about our culture. Coincidently, I was born in September, during Hispanic Heritage month, which always calls for a huge fiesta, but I proudly celebrate my Mexican heritage every day throughout the year. Whether it’s by sharing my personal experiences, speaking with my family in Spanish, or going to bailes (dances), it’s who I am. 

What type of work are you involved in at CU Denver that impacts the community? 

As a student ambassador for the Office of Admissions for the past three years, I have had multiple responsibilities. I give tours in both English and Spanish for prospective and enrolled students, serve as a receptionist, and manage events. I also support the Office of Equity with administrative duties.  

How has studying, teaching, or working at CU Denver impacted you? 

CU Denver has given me many opportunities I’m grateful for. I’ve studied abroad in Seville, Spain, thanks to winning the competitive Gilman Scholarship, which I believe can inspire other Latinx students. I am also a secretary for the Latinx Student Alliance, where we build a community for Latinos to share experiences, attend events, and support each other.