When Marcos DeLeon was invited to speak at the Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy's eighth-grade graduation this summer, he was surprised at how the experience affected him.
DeLeon moved to Chicago from Florida two years ago, when he joined RUSH as a senior vice president and chief human resources officer, as well as the chief diversity officer.
DeLeon soon learned about Latinos Progresando, a non-profit organization based in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood, and attended some networking events to meet other Latinos.
Through Latinos Progresando, DeLeon was introduced to Virginia Hiltz, principal of Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy, a Chicago Public Schools magnet school for math, science and technology located in Little Village. At the time, Hiltz was looking for a speaker for the school's upcoming 2022 eighth-grade class graduation. DeLeon agreed to be the speaker, since it offered an opportunity to represent RUSH's commitment to community and service.
At the graduation ceremony, DeLeon stood at a podium in front of 120 very excited eighth-graders. A tremendous sense of pride and anticipation filled the room. On stage stood the stars and stripes of the United States' flag next to Mexico's green, white and red flag.
DeLeon, a second-generation Mexican American, was emotional.
"I looked out at young smiling faces, surrounded by their family and friends in a packed gymnasium, and realized that most of those faces looked like my own," he recalls. “It was very moving, as connecting to one's heritage is so powerful, as much as sharing that heritage with others to grow understanding and diversity."
DeLeon spoke to the students about the challenges facing young people and resilience. He offered this advice: "Be kind, be respectful, and learn to grow in a way that keeps your heart as strong as your mind and muscles.
“How do you do that? You seek help. And guidance. Lean on those around you. Talk to your teachers, family, neighbors and community leaders; many of them have been in your shoes. There is no one way to do all of this."
After this experience, DeLeon is inspired to work more closely with the Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy to create mentoring opportunities and will likely speak again next year at the 2023 commencement. He looks forward to seeing more excited faces of Hispanic American youth, future champions to watch and follow.
National Hispanic Heritage Month
RUSH is celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is observed from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, to recognize the contributions of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture and achievements in the United States.
National Hispanic Heritage Month dates back to 1968, when Hispanic Week was established by legislation sponsored by Rep. Edward R. Roybal of Los Angeles and was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. It was expanded to an entire month with legislation sponsored by Rep. Esteban Edward Torres, amended by Illinois Senator Paul Simon, and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
We affirm our commitment to the Hispanic American community at RUSH, who empower our diversity, fostering creativity and strength.