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From losing your first tooth, to graduating from college, a rite of passage symbolizes personal growth between important stages of life. Ms. Erin Lucero’s 8th-grade class in Rio Rancho, NM, is working on a lesson all about life’s rites of passage and exploring these pivotal moments in their own lives. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we teamed up with Ms. Lucero to create a “Rites of Passage” flashchat series featuring five incredible Hispanic professionals who discussed their personal and professional journeys.

Eric Lucero’s students during their flashchat with Mark Machado.

Eric Bencomo Dixon during his DreamWakers flashchat.

YouTube product manager Eric Bencomo Dixon shifted his entire life by moving to the United States. Born and raised in Barcelona, Spain, Mr. Dixon wanted a change of pace; an opportunity arose for him to study abroad at the University of Southern California, and he took it! His hard work would eventually land him his dream job at YouTube. Mr. Dixon’s advice is to take your time: “College teaches you how to learn; it teaches you discipline; it helps you open your mind to the future. What university taught me was when dealing with a difficult problem, sit down, work hard, break it down, and find a solution. That is something I use every day in my job now.”

David Silva talking to Ms. Lucero’s 7th grade class.

David Silva, a software engineer at Slingshot Health, also moved to the United States at a young age. Originally from Colombia, the culture shock he experienced was daunting, but that didn’t stop him from finding a place in his community. Mr. Silva founded a company called Techqueria, a nonprofit that serves the largest community of Latinx in tech. Mr. Silva believes young adults should experiment and learn more about themselves. “Try new things that you might enjoy and exposing yourself to different industries and activities. It will help you when you’re deciding what to study in college and your career decisions.”

Mark Machado speaking on being a first-generation college student.

Mark Machado’s biggest rite of passage was attending college. Being a first-generation college student, Mr. Machado had to pay his own way through college. Through the course of his academic career, he worked at four internships and two full-time jobs to afford his education. It was worth it: Mr. Machado now works as a People Consultant at Google. His advice to young students is to be open to the perspectives of others. “If and when possible, try to listen to the feedback you receive and improve.”

Viviana Corella speaking to students in New Mexico.

For Viviana Corella, Global Product Lead at YouTube, one of life’s most significant milestones was receiving a scholarship to attend the Tecnológico de Monterrey. With hard work, she became high school valedictorian.

“I remember when I was in elementary school, and I had a classmate who was one of the smartest students in the classroom. One time she was distraught because, in one exam, she got a really low grade. I remember the whiteboard was completely blank and my teacher drew a tiny dot on it. She asked us, ‘What do you see here?’ Everyone said things like, ‘Oh, there’s a black dot.’ Then she said, ‘Everyone is focusing too much on the black dot. Nobody looked at the full whiteboard.’ She explained, that’s exactly what we were doing by being upset over one exam. You’ve done great on so many exams; you cannot just reduce yourself to one dot when you have a whole whiteboard. Throughout your life, you will keep encountering this. When you make a mistake, either at work or school, you need to see the big picture and think about all the times you have succeeded.”

Anisa Hodelin, Brand Marketing Manager at Youtube Music

The most significant milestones for Anisa Hodelin, Brand Marketing Manager at Youtube, were the transitions between new places. Her first adjustment was attending a public school in New Jersey after being homeschooled in Mexico. After that, she remembers her first day at Goucher College, her first time living on her own. Then, she moved to Sacramento and began life as a working adult. All of these transitions were challenging at first, but Ms. Hodelin was able to persevere through the unique hurdles that each presented. Her golden rule is to pursue all of the things you want. “Sticking to one path at the time is the easiest, but it is amazing to keep learning and growing.”

All of our Hispanic Heritage Month speakers have incredible stories that inspire our students every day. From them, we learned that the sky’s the limit and to never quit DreamWaking!

Written by Alexandria Polk, DreamWakers Social Media and Marketing Intern

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