Experiences on the Hilltop encourage student to accept Latina identity, religious faith


Kayce Stevens / Hilltop Views

Kelly Aparicio hopes to pursue an occupation in physical therapy after college.

For Kelly Aparicio, a third year student at St. Edward’s, it was being on the Hilltop that enabled her to explore and embrace her Latina identity and Catholic faith.

In high school, Aparicio never really embraced her Latina identity.

“I used to be ashamed of my curly hair and that I spoke a different language on the phone and at home. I didn’t want to be Latina – I didn’t embrace it, I was ashamed of it,” Aparicio said.

It wasn’t until she came to St. Edward’s that she came across other people of the Latinx community.  

“It reignited a passion I had for my background and upbringing, so I really invested in it,” Aparicio said.

Aparicio is now the president of the Latino Student Leader Organization (LSLO). The organization used to be called Hispanic Student Association, but it died out and came back in 2015 under a new name. She was introduced to LSLO her freshman year through the involvement fair and attended their first meeting. She became a member and took the role of multicultural co-chair.

Going to Baile — the organization’s biggest event of the year every November for Dio de los Muertos — marked a significant turning point for Aparicio. After seeing the small turnout for the event, she was determined to make it “bigger and better.”

She became vice president her sophomore year and took control of Baile, which had over one hundred people in attendance that year. During that time, in the fall of 2017, St. Edward’s reported that 41.4 percent of students enrolled were Hispanic/Latino.

“Kelly has been nothing short of an amazing leader and president,” Robert Nieto, junior LSLO member, said. “It is awesome to be led by her and participate in the awesome events LSLO holds.”

Through St. Edward’s, Aparicio has also been able to deepen her faith in the Roman Catholic Church.

She went on two Service Break Experiences (SBE) trips with Campus Ministry: Los Angeles freshman year and Jamaica sophomore year. 

In Los Angeles, she spent time working with Homeboy Industries, an organization that helps people who have been in gangs or formerly incarcerated rehabilitate into society. The majority of her time was spent working with kids and the Sisters of St. Mary Elementary School.

In Jamaica, Aparicio worked with the organization One Love One Heart, assisting children who have severe disabilities. She was able to meet occupational therapists who teach the caretakers how to treat the children — which is similar to what Aparicio wants to do as a physical therapist in the future.

During her SBE trips, she taught her group how to make rosaries.

“The rosary has been a really big thing for me going into my faith because my grandma taught it to me, so it’s been nice to spread that and also invest in that,” Aparicio said.

Aparicio has been praying the rosary every Tuesday and Thursday morning in the chapel at 8 a.m. with a group of fellow St. Edward’s students. She also serves as an eucharistic minister every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. mass on campus.