Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Noelle Castro - Story of Self

Hi everyone! My name is Noelle Castro and I'm a first-generation, low-income senior in Kirkland House. I study Sociology & Romance Languages and Literatures with a secondary in Latinx Studies and citation in Portuguese. I'm Dominican, born and raised in The Bronx, New York, where I spent my most formative years. I moved the summer before my sophomore year of high school to a suburban-rural town an hour north of The Bronx. I moved from an environment that was predominantly Black and brown to one where in being an Afro-Latina, I was in the minority. It definitely took some getting used to, but being in this predominantly white space helped me grow closer to those central aspects of my identity that meant and continue to mean so much to me. My identity has definitely played a role in guiding my lived experiences and has informed both my academic choices and extracurricular involvements during my time at Harvard. 

I came to Harvard thinking that I wanted to become a doctor. However, I fell in love with the social sciences and cultural studies, specifically sociology, which I was exposed to my senior year of high school. I had decide on Latinx Studies after taking an Introduction to Latinx Literatures and Cultures course and decided that I wanted to study my lived experiences through a theoretical lens, like Cherrie Moreaga and Gloria Anzaldua preached in their work. The idea of wanting to explore my identities academically also piqued my interest in actively trying to create community as a student leader, which I strived to do during my four years at Harvard. 

I've been involved in a lot of different extracurricular activities and have held several leadership positions during my four years of undergrad. I would say that being so involved (although overcommitted at times) has given me the opportunity to grow as a leader and be able to develop key interpersonal skills. Even before committed to Harvard, I knew that I was interested in being involved in cultural organizations during my undergraduate experience. The first leadership position that I held was as Latinas Unidas' Associate Advocacy Chair the fall semester of my first year. I was encouraged to join LU by my Visitas host who was serving as the Vice President of the organization as well as the Co-Executive Director of the conference that was planned by the organization before the constitution was rewritten to make them two separate entities. As Associate Advocacy Chair, I would work with the Advocacy Chair on planning events that would pertain to civic engagement and bringing light to issues affecting the Latina women both within the university and at large. I then went on to become Advocacy Chair within the organization and was a leader for a year and a half before transitioning out of the role after the constitution was rewritten. 

I've also been involved in Teatro!, which is the Latinx theatre troupe at the college, starring as Estela Garcia in the Spring 2019 production of Real Women Have Curves. During this time, I was involved in several organizations including LU and Mission Hill After School Program, while simultaneously recreating the Dominican Student Association. As a leader of a Latinx organization, I also became a member of Concilio Latino, which is the Latinx Leaders org that has all of the Presidents and Vice Presidents of the Latinx-identifying organizations, and worked to have DSA an organization that was recognized by the Black Community Leaders as well. Other communities I became a part of as a student leader were Harvard Latinxs in Finance and Tech and PALABRITAS. 

Alongside my extracurricular commitments, I was also working two jobs, which I think speaks a bit to the culture of overcommitment and unpaid student labor at this institution that many of us face as student leaders. However, I found community in the organizations that I was involved in specifically within the Latinx community, where I met a lot of my closest friends and truly felt a sense of belonging and welcomeness with the people that I crossed paths with. The Dominican Student Association to this day is a family to me. It's a home away for home and it's a community that I'll forever be grateful for. This is why as a departing senior, I would like to leave the organization with something that can help to ensure its sustainability and can help future leaders be fully prepared to take on the organization and help it reach new heights. 

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