Only 15 percent of Hispanics have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 41 percent of whites and 63 percent of Asians, according to a 2014 Pew Research study.
First-generation college student Aly Escobar hopes to change that.
Escobar attended meetings with bill sponsors and tracked the bills that affect higher education for the 2017 legislative session as an intern for the Utah Department of Higher Education.
Escobar said her passion to help minorities — and Hispanics in particular — earn college degrees has only flourished since working for the department.
“She has a love for education. She has always been trying to help others achieve higher education,” said Aly’s husband, Mynor Escobar.
Aly’s family emigrated to the U.S. from Chihuahua, Mexico, when she was 14. Although she is working toward a degree in political science at the University of Utah, she knows how difficult access to higher education can be for Hispanics.
“It’s a struggle fitting into the culture, and once you are a citizen, it (the government) doesn’t teach you,” Aly said One major reason college and university enrollment is lower for Hispanics is because the government doesn’t teach new immigrants where to access resources once they are citizens.
“They don’t know how to apply for FASFA or scholarships or how to even do a college application,” Aly said.
Her internship made her realize how she can work with the government to provide better education and access for minority groups like Hispanics, she said.
Diana Merino, a fellow legislative intern, said Aly’s unique attention to detail played a major role in meetings.
“With her analytical skills, she is able to look at a bill and look at the wording and be able to interpret a different translation and understanding,” Merino said. “That is very important, because each side feels like their point is getting across.”
Merino said Aly played a pivotal role in helping two opposing parties come to an agreement on issues within the proposed legislation.
“She seeks to understand before seeking to be understood, and she does a very good job at leaving her own personal agenda at the door and focusing on what is best for the employer or the cause that she is there for,” Merino said.
Now that the legislative session and her internship have ended, Aly said she hopes to go into lobbying, where she feels she can make a more effective impact than if she were to stay in the legislative department.
She hopes to lobby for and give a voice to Hispanics in government and to help educate them on how to become more politically involved.
“I feel like there is a lack in the government to involve the minorities,” Aly said. “They don’t feel like their voice is heard. I would love to change the political involvement of Hispanics in the United States.”
One of Aly’s role models is Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Sotomayor is the first justice of Hispanic heritage and the first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court. Aly said she relates to Sotomayor because of her minority background, and the justice’s example inspires her to dream big.
“Before she just wanted to be able to help,” Mynor Escobar said. “Now she has gained the knowledge of how to do so.”