Last week, the Upper School Latine1 Affinity hosted their annual LatinExcellence Assembly with special guest speaker Maria Serpas, entrepreneur, life coach, and founder of Wiz Kid Tutor. The co-heads of the affinity, Melanie M. '23, Isabella V. '24, and Kayla A. '25, led the Q&A with Serpas, hosting a discussion about Serpas’s life and career as an immigrant and founder of multiple businesses while the entire Upper School student body listened in on Herrick Quad.
The LatinExcellence Assembly originated last school year when the 2021-2022 affinity co-heads interviewed alumna Vanessa Delgado ’95, California politician and housing advocate. This year, the student leaders built on the legacy of their graduated peers, organizing the assembly to continue the tradition.
“For me, I think that it is important to host this assembly to show more Latino representation on campus and highlight the accomplishments of our communities,” said affinity co-head Isabella. “I hope that this assembly, as well as our overall celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month here on campus, show our school community the resilience and strength of Latino people, as well as how vibrant and special our cultures are.”
During her interview, Serpas explained that as a native Spanish-speaker, she experienced culture shock at her English-speaking school and found it difficult to feel a sense of belonging when she initially didn’t understand the language spoken in her classes. It was her experience in college, she said, that made her realize the deep value of education. When she began helping her classmates and realized she loved teaching, she was inspired to follow her passion to start a private tutoring business, especially as a way to give back to her community.
“Education changed my path,” shared Serpas. “Your education is for you and no one else, so allow it to help you and always bring it back to your community.”
Throughout the interview, Serpas emphasized the importance of pursuing your interests and exploring your talents—a refrain she often repeats with her own clients as a life coach, her second business. When asked for her advice to young students, Serpas said, “You have your whole life ahead of you. It’s okay if you make a choice and decide it wasn’t the right one later—that’s the power of choice. You can always change your mind. Follow what is in your heart and be your authentic self.”
“As an educator and a Latina, I think it is extremely important to invite Latine community members to campus so that students can see themselves represented and see the possibilities of what they can do with their life outside of Westridge,” said Latine Affinity Faculty Advisor and Upper School Spanish Teacher Dr. Jessica Perez del Toro. “Highlighting LatinExcellence draws attention to the outstanding contributions of the Latine community and helps foster a sense of belonging for our Latine students while raising awareness, appreciation, and understanding about this diverse community among the entire school community.”
“Hispanic Heritage Month is about celebrating one's culture, but specifically honoring the people, events, and circumstances that led to where we are today,” said affinity co-head Melanie. “As a child of immigrants, I'm the direct product of change and betterment. Latine or not, many of us often fail to realize the sacrifices that made us. This month allows us to focus and really think about who we are as people.”