Updated: Jan 12, 2019
What was the role of diversity in your childhood?
I spent seven years of my life in New Jersey, where diversity thrived. I was accustomed to speaking in Spanish all day at school because practically everybody somehow knew Spanish. I remember sitting at my table and listening to others have conversations in Arabic and Hindi as well. Whenever we threw parties in kindergarten, we would dance to music from countries that I didn’t even know about.
Did that change when you moved to Charlotte?
Moving to Charlotte brought on a whole other perspective. I soon learned that my classrooms would look utterly different regarding diversity.
Your mother recognized a call to action. How was she a role model for diversity?
My mother promptly noticed this change. Therefore, she made even greater efforts to keep the culture alive in my household. We would spend our weekends going to festivals for different countries, our car rides listening to Moroccan and Greek music, and our free time learning about different customs from around the world. Culture became the foundation of my life from then on.
How did you begin learning about your culture, as well as other cultures, through dance?
When I was in the eighth grade I joined a Bollywood dance team with my mother and aunt. We performed at the Charlotte Festival of India in 2013 and 2016. I would spend my weekends watching Bollywood films and researching things about India. I would also learn more about Latin dance and attend dance workshops with my parents.
What is touch bachata?
During the summer before my junior year, my mom put me in a touch bachata dance team. Touch bachata is a dance that originated in the dominican republic that includes using your body and feet to match rhythms in the music.
You started a Latin dance club at Myers Park High School. Can you share the backstory?
I was a part of the touch bachata team for six months, and during that time, I felt inspired to start my own youth Latin dance program at my Boys and Girls Club. Since 2015, I have been teaching Latin dance and Bhangra to middle schoolers at the Club. The Boys and Girls Club is a nonprofit organization that gives children the opportunity to be a part of an afterschool enrichment program and summer camp program. The Latin dance program that I created encourages youth to open their minds to new things and to be unafraid to express themselves through dance. This program inspired me to start a Latin dance club at Myers Park called the “Mustang Bailadores” during my senior year.
MPHS “Mustang Bailadores” Latin Dance Club
Why is the Boys and Girls Club a priority for you?
The Boys and Girls Club has been a significant part of my life throughout my entire high school journey. When I joined the Club as a freshman, it was simply an afterschool program that my mother chose for me. Soon enough, the Club became a place where I knew that I would be welcomed by people who care every day when the school day ended. The Club has provided me with many opportunities to step out of my comfort zone and put my ideas into motion. There, I am unafraid to embrace who I am and where I come from. As a senior, with greater demands on my schedule, it would be easy to devote less time to the Club but through the years, and more than ever today, the Club continues to be the place where I choose to spend my time.
Leadership is an important quality for students to demonstrate. How have you been a leader and what awards have you earned?
From 2015 to 2018, I have represented my Club as the local Youth of the Year. In 2017, I represented Charlotte and North Carolina as Youth of the Year. I also served as the North and South Carolina Divisional Youth of the Year for the Salvation Army in 2017 and was recently announced as the 2018 Divisional Youth of the Year.
2017- North Carolina State Youth of the Year Competition
In what ways have you had a positive impact on your community?
Not only do I strive to be a role model at my Boys and Girls Club, but I also serve in leadership positions at my school. My peers elected me to serve as the Student Superintendent Advisory Council representative for my school. That council elected me Co-Chair of the district wide Charlotte Mecklenburg Advisory Council. My role is to bridge the gap between students and school administrators by sharing the visions of the student body with the Superintendent. I also served as a Student Government Association representative during my junior year and a Diversity Panel representative for my school during my junior and senior years. Through these roles, I have learned more about the importance of community involvement. Youth have a voice. The key is knowing how to utilize it to make a positive impact on the community. If we all use our voices to make our communities better, we could change the world in a positive way, little by little.
2018 Great Futures Breakfast- Announced Charlotte Youth of the Year
Any advice for minority students?
Lastly, I would like to share my experience as an International Baccalaureate student and how I turned my personal brand around. As I mentioned before, I have always been taught to embrace my Colombian background. However, when I first entered high school, embracing my culture became more challenging. As one of the few Latinas in the International Baccalaureate program, I was afraid to let my Latin roots shine out. I would hide my accent and avoid any conversation about my ethnicity. Over the years, I realized that my cultural background is a keystone in the building blocks of Tatiana.
What mark would you say you are leaving behind at Myers Park High School?
I have dedicated my life to promoting cultural awareness and diversity. From planning a Latin Symposium at my school to informing students about D.A.C.A, the D.R.E.A.M Act, to teaching Latin dance to Myers Park students, I continue to carry out my passion. I went from being one of the few Latinas in IB, to being a Changemaker Day leader, a Myers Park Diversity Panel representative and a Latin dance club founder and choreographer.
MPHS Diversity Panel
How will you continue impacting your peers during your studies at UNC Chapel Hill?
I hope to inspire others to embrace their roots during my next four years at UNC Chapel Hill.