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Dec. 16, 2021

Student view: From Southwest Detroit to East Lansing

Diana Talamantes-Valles is a sophomore majoring in hospitality business in the Broad College of Business. On Nov. 16, she won the Residential Business Community’s inaugural Hills Climbed Art Contest and Festival for “Raíces Profundas”, a poem she wrote about her experience as a first-generation Latinx student.



When I signed up for the Residential Business Community’s Hills Climbed art contest, I wanted to share the reality of being a first-generation student who was raised by an immigrant mother from Southwest Detroit.

It was important for me to highlight my community because it has played a huge role in cultivating who I am. Southwest Detroit has its own distinct community and culture compared to the rest of Detroit. The community was built by Mexican immigrants and others who came from Latin American countries. Most people dismiss Detroit dangerous, seeing the graffiti as vandalism, ignoring the murals that decorate my community with cultural pride.

But as much as I love my community, I can honestly say it didn’t prepare me to transition to Michigan State University; I experienced culture shock moving into a predominately white institution.

Being the first person in my family to be born in America means my family still holds traditionalist views from Mexico, including women only moving out of the house once they’re married. When I chose to become a Spartan, that meant becoming the first person in my family to move out of my household so young to obtain a degree. It was extremely difficult, a journey filled with anxiety and fear. While my mother could give me strength and courage, she was unable to answer any questions or provide any real advice regarding the university.

It has not been easy, but I remember that the stresses I have been experiencing here at MSU are truly a blessing; they are things that none of my ancestors have had a chance to experience. I have found organizations like the Native American & Hispanic Business Students, Residential Business Community and Detroit M.A.D.E have helped me build a community of support here at MSU, as well as all my wonderful advisors who have been by my side since the beginning, guiding me through the process.

The RBC Hills Climbed Contest gave me the opportunity to showcase how I have been breaking the stigma that surrounds those who are from Detroit as well and negative stereotypes for Latinx students. I am now part of the small 5.7% Latinx population at Michigan State University. I take great pride in the journey I have taken to climb the hills to get to the point where I am at, but I know the journey has only begun.

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