Spirit of Drew Scholarship Winner: Sergio Gonzalez — The Dru Project

Scholarships

The 2021-2022 school year is about to begin and we wanted to kick it off by introducing you to our scholars! This year, we had such a hard time choosing between a ton of incredible applicants. Ultimately, the five we went with are doing spectacular things in their communities and making life better for their LGBTQ+ peers.

Meet Sergio Gonzalez, who is a graduate student at Claremont University in Southern California. Read their essays below:

During my academic trajectory at Claremont Graduate University (CGU), I have collaborated with various professors in preparation for my dissertation topic. This in turn provided me an opportunity to conduct a pilot study in the Spring of 2020 directly informing my dissertation, under the guidance of Dr. Gilda Ochoa at Pomona College. My pilot study explored how sense of belonging influenced the identity development of undergraduate queer Latinx students at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). By referring to a process of reclaiming and documenting personal testimonies and experiences through pláticas, this pilot study provided a better understanding of how queer Latinx undergraduate students at PWIs make sense of their belonging and understand their identity development within these institutions. Three main findings emerged from this study; they were (1) Do I belong? (2) Radical Queer Love, and (3) Critical Consciousness/Jotería Identity. This research encapsulated how a sense of belonging together with Jotería Identity and Consciousness, has for research on queer Latinx students in higher education. My pilot study has pushed me to expand my research agenda and in turn, focus on the experiences of queer Latinx graduate students in higher education. As Renn (2010) and Duran et al. (2020) have asserted, research centering queer students of color has started to develop but focus largely on undergraduate students. Thus, by incorporating Jotería Identity and Consciousness and Sense of Belonging as guiding frameworks, my dissertation will lay the foundation to center queer Latinx graduate students’ lived experiences through the co-creation of authentic pláticas. The Spirit of Drew Scholarship will provide support for this foundational work and allow me to strengthen my research for an important topic that deserves more exploration, recognition and existence in higher education.

“Close the damn door!” were the words my mother shrieked when I asked why she would lock herself in her room. The revelation of her drug addiction filled me with shame and disappointment. I was 11 years old when I witnessed her crippling vulnerability. My family’s existence had been shadowed by systemic oppression, fear of deportation, separation, and criminality manifested into her addiction. My education regarding my history and my ancestral legacy began by listening to the stories of my parents and family members shared at the kitchen table. I learned about migration and oppression through corridos (regional Mexican music) from Los Tigres del Norte. I begin with this vignette as it reflects a shift in my consciousness about my social location, pedagogy, and praxis that has always been present in the work I do as a scholar, educator, and activist.

Growing up there were more liquor stores than libraries in my neighborhood, it was hard to imagine leaving what I knew to be home and pursue my education. In high school, I was discouraged to apply to college by my college counselor as she stated, “You shouldn’t worry about college and look into vocational programs as they will better suit you.” While this enraged me, it enabled me to try harder and apply to colleges around the country. My educational experiences involved navigating systems and institutions not made for me to succeed. As an undergraduate student at Manhattanville College, I was able to explore how my personal experiences as a low-income, joto (queer) Latinx from a mixed-status family were shaped by structural and historical inequalities. Being documented while my father was not, for example, was the complexity that created my unique reality.