Olivia Ochoa '24 Finds “Familia” at LSP

LSP student intern Olivia Ochoa (she/her/ella), a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, double majoring in Spanish and American Studies and minoring in Latina/o Studies, started her academic career at Cornell four years ago with an undecided major. Throughout Ochoa's time at Cornell, not only did she realize that Spanish remained her favorite subject in high school and college, but she also realized the importance of Latine students having a space such as LSP to "come home to." Having a second family that LSP provides aided students like Ochoa in finding academic, personal, and cultural paths at college.

Ochoa has been with LSP since the spring of her sophomore year. As an intern, she worked at the student intern office desk as a receptionist, assisting with video digitizing Spanish/Latino films while performing her "silly little intern responsibilities." During her three years here, Ochoa also trained many of LSP's current and former student interns; "yes, it's a job, but this job is important to me [and is] an important part of my identity."

The more time Ochoa spent at LSP, the more she wanted to implement her initiatives in a welcoming space. A year later, during the spring of her junior year, she started "Nuestra Voz en Español," also known as "Spanish Conversation Hour," with Senior Lecturer of Spanish Language Mary K. Redmond from Department of Romance Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Ochoa became interested in starting her conversation hour event series because of the intersection with her interests and involvement on campus outside of LSP. Being involved in language access programs furthered Ochoa's professional life identity at school. Ochoa's program aims to "bring students together to speak Spanish with other heritage speakers in an informal setting." Snacks and drinks are provided, and participants choose topics with no assignments, grades, or exams to make the program accessible to all, no matter their Spanish background or fluency level. Eventually, the Language Resource Center and LSP/LSSO also partnered with Ochoa's programming. The event occurs every Thursday in the LSP conference room (429 Rockefeller Hall) from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Ochoa's passion for language equity and accessibility will also guide her post-graduate studies. Ochoa is currently applying for a Fulbright fellowship to secure an assistantship teaching English to Spanish speakers in Spain. Ochoa also wants to focus on the intersection of immigration and language access policies. As the daughter of two immigrants, she has heard numerous stories from her parents about how being of Limited English Proficiency (LEP) has proven to be a barrier to accessing essential resources.

Even if Fulbright doesn't work out, Ochoa still plans to work abroad in Spain, coming to a conclusion after acknowledging how, as a Mexican-American, "there is some obvious colonial heritage" involved. Ochoa elaborates that the limitations of US perspectives on immigrant and refugee policy can be dangerous. Examining Spain's migration patterns and proximity to other superpower European white countries, and how African and Latin American migration patterns are growing, intrigue Ochoa. She wants to understand how immigration, race, and language policies function there.

While also looking for US positions, Ochoa emphasized that she is "not extremely eager to participate in capitalism." With a typical 9-to-5 job, Ochoa discourages peers from buying into the narrative that we must have "the world set up for us the second we get our diplomas in hand. "Growing up, my family did not have help, the proper resources, and the infrastructure that we deserved," she says, wanting to be the person her family needed years ago.

Reflecting on wisdom, Ochoa notes the struggle to find not only an inclusive space but also a space where you feel like you belong. Regarding being at Cornell, "It gets easier and then it gets harder, but it gets better." To other Latine students, Ochoa remarked on the need to continue investing in the Latina/o Studies Program: " People really put so much effort into making it what it is. It's on them, it's on you all, to keep showing up."

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Olivia Ochoa