The goal of the Latino Student Leadership Institute (LSLI) is to teach Latina/o students about internships and other leadership opportunities. Kiara Lynn Garcia, a senior at Millersville University who will graduate in May 2019, took advantage of the opportunities that came her way and spent the summer of 2018 interning for Nike.
Garcia was able to bring lessons from her internship back to the institute this semester through her work as a peer mentor with the institute. After first participating in LSLI in 2015, Garcia knew she wanted to stay involved, so she transitioned into a peer mentor role.
“As a peer mentor, Kiara presented a workshop on the local and national leadership opportunities. She studied abroad and engaged in a national internship experience. She returned in 2018 to the LSLI to share her experiences and encourage students to participate in local, national and international leadership opportunities,” says Dr. Kimberly Mahaffy, professor and director of Latino Studies at Millersville University.
Garcia was first introduced to Nike when she received The Wings Scholarship from Jordan Brand through a program that was piloted at her high school in 2014. While she was studying abroad in Chile in 2017, they reached out to extend an offer to their scholars for the internship. She interviewed and was hired for the paid position, which also included a stipend for housing and help with relocating.
“My Nike internship with Jordan Brand was working on global marketing projects,” says Garcia. “For Nike, I was part of a cross-functional team that was made up of people from across the company; financial, marketing, HR, and a few others. We worked eight weeks together on an issue that was unique to Nike.”
The Latino Student Leadership Institute takes place the third week of the fall semester over a weekend at the Blackrock Retreat Center in Quarryville. Mahaffy oversees the institute, which started in 2013 with 19 students. This year they supported 33 students. The qualifications are a self-identified Latino student, either transfer or regular admission, or a Millersville Pre-Scholar student, with less than 30 credits at Millersville.
“Most are first generation college students and the majority of them are immigrants. English as a second language is popular,” Mahaffy says of the participants. “All peer leaders need to self-identify as Latino and most speak Spanish. We considered having the program during the summer, but realized that students needed a couple weeks of classes so that things like help with a degree audit or networking were relevant. Elements of the institute address Latino culture, Mexican-American studies and even the undocumented community within Latinos.”
In addition to her work with LSLI, Garcia, an international studies major with minors in government and Spanish, has participated in the Global Ambassador Program, as a Walker Fellow working on voter engagement, as well as working as a work-study volunteer for the Assets Lancaster organization. She hails from North Philadelphia and says LSLI is like a family.
“They have a strong commitment to first generation college students and to Latino students,” says Garcia. “When the peer mentors speak to the new students, we let them know how we got here and that we can relate to them. We let them know they’re not the only ones struggling mentally, physically or financially.”