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Amanda Sep 29, 2021

Whoever you are, you are welcome. That is the message Gabby wants every member of the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) at AF Amistad High to receive.  Now LASO’s president, this is a culture Gabby has helped build within the organization since she joined it four years ago. A 12th-grader, Gabby is proud that LASO helps shed new light on Latinx culture in fun ways. The club is founded on a spirit of pride in identity that Gabby embodies. But she didn’t always feel that way. When Gabby was younger, she felt embarrassed to speak Spanish with her father or grandmother. She remembers hearing people muttering under their breath, sometimes with racial slurs. It made her hesitate to speak Spanish, and she worried about embracing where she comes from.

Then, she decided she wasn’t going to let what other people say run her life anymore.

LASO provided a perfect opportunity to help her come out of her shell. Now, she speaks Spanish while feeling nothing but pride. She’s proud to be Puerto Rican, and she says she’ll rep her flag anywhere. And she says it with a huge smile on her face. LASO was a big part of helping Gabby feel like whoever you are; you’re welcome. For her and other executive board members, it’s been home within a home at school.

It’s a place where people know that speaking Spanish should be celebrated and that it doesn’t mean any one thing about where a person comes from. 

For Gabby, the most important thing about LASO is that everyone knows that whoever you are, you are welcome. You do not have to be Latinx to join; you just need to want to learn more about Latinx culture. Gabby makes clear that it doesn’t matter your race, ethnicity, your sexual orientation, or your pronouns. You might identify as Hispanic or Latinx, gay, non-binary, Afro-Latino, Asian-American, or Black. Gabby identifies as a Puerto Rican female who is not straight. She’s the president of LASO. And she’s a football manager, a member of the gospel choir, a student, a worker, and a godmother. One day, she wants to be a surgeon. She’s one person and many things. And while that can be challenging -- it’s not impossible. She wants everyone to know that embracing who you are never is. Whoever you are, you are welcome.  

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