This is part of a monthly “My Student Experience” series in which the NC State College of Education highlights the student experience through profiles, stories and videos.
“Sin limite.” In Spanish, the phrase means “limitless.” For Jessica Terrones ‘22, who helped choose those two words as the theme for this year’s Latinx Heritage Month, it means a world of possibilities.
“As a daughter of immigrants, I have always felt that I had limitations, such as fears of proving myself because of the color of my skin or being frowned upon for the way I speak,” Terrones said. “It never felt like I could ever overcome such limitations until now. I know that I am more than capable, and I am willing to continue to persist without fear of what others think of me.”
That confidence comes in part from her role as this year’s NC State University Latinx Heritage Month committee chair. As the committee chair, the number of tasks she needed to complete to make sure the month went off without a hitch came close to pushing her to her limits.
In addition to helping select the theme, she recruited students to the planning committee, decided on programming, organized marketing materials and served as the committee’s liaison to other student organizations. But Terrones was up to the challenge, thanks to her experiences with Professional Learning Teams (PLT) as a mathematics education major in the College of Education.
“I had to regularly communicate with my committee members and let their voices be heard,” Terrones said. “I had never been in charge of a group or event so large as Latinx Heritage Month, but many of the skills like public speaking, PLT techniques, cultural competence and more that I attained through the College of Education helped me successfully lead and take charge.”
Terrones first volunteered with the Office of Multicultural Affairs to fulfill the College of Education’s Passport to Success cross-cultural signature experience, but that experience soon turned into a job opportunity that eventually led to her taking a leadership role as the chair of the Latinx Heritage Month committee.
For Terrones, the month, which lasted from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, is a vital opportunity to let students know their heritage is being recognized.
“As a person of color at NC State, it can be easy to feel intimidated for standing out in a predominantly white institution,” Terrones said. “So by having Latinx Heritage Month, it at least gives students a moment to feel heard and acknowledged, even if it’s for a month.”
And it’s not just about being heard and acknowledged, but about bringing people together.
“It lets students know that there is a community out there where they can feel accepted and can relate their experiences while continuing to learn about one another,” Terrones said.
To create these learning opportunities, Terrones and the rest of the committee planned a variety of events, including “Mi Cocina” cooking videos on Instagram, a keynote speaker series and a virtual educational gallery. Planning these virtual events was a challenge, but Terrones knew it was necessary.
“We had seen with our own eyes that Latinx people had been one of the most impacted groups by the pandemic, so we could not risk endangering the lives of our peers as much as we wanted to do in-person events,” Terrones said.
Normally, there is only one keynote speaker during the month, but Terrones and her committee wanted to demonstrate how intersectional “sin limite” could be.
“You can be Latinx and have a career in STEM,” said Terrones. “You can be a librarian and a DJ. You can connect with your ancestral roots while encouraging underrepresented groups to engage with the outdoors. There is no one who fits all views on how a Latinx person should be in 2020, so we used this thought to guide our selection of keynote speakers.”
A self-described introvert, Terrones overcame her fear of public speaking in order to step into her leadership role.
“I had to lead keynote speaker events and committee meetings, which were very intimidating, but I enjoyed that they challenged me to do better,” she said.
Latinx Heritage Month enabled Terrones to transcend her limits, but it also allowed her to stay grounded.
“Through my experience, I have been able to stay connected with my identity,” Terrones said. “Coming into college, I was scared of losing that part of me, but instead, I have been able to embrace it.”