Elizabeth C.C. — a proud Indigenous Oaxacan and KIPP Adelante Preparatory Academy alumna — shares her roots, her educational journey, the inspiration found in her San Diego community, and her advice for others working to create a more just world.
“My parents are from the pueblito (town) San Juan Piñas in Oaxaca, Mexico.” Elizabeth recalls the state of Oaxaca as beautiful and rich of indigenous culture, and home to colonial architecture alongside a vibrant art scene, delicious food, and diverse natural riches.
Elizabeth first learned to speak Mixtec, her native tonal language. Though, she admits that speaking Mixtec in the states was difficult. The language barriers at one point made her feel embarrassed of communicating and she, actually, started employing silence as a social strategy. But, school helped her embrace her background — she found her voice and became trilingual at a young age speaking Mixtec, English, and Spanish.
As the oldest of four — she strives to be a good role model for her siblings — so, over the years, “I made sure to reconnect with my roots, because it is part of our family,” shares Elizabeth. “And I know that has helped me grow into a better person.” To be informed is to be empowered and for that reason, “I like sharing information and teaching my siblings and friends about what is going on in the world. You can’t rely on TikTok news.” She adds, “we can’t hide away from politics; history keeps repeating itself with very little progress.”
With complex social issues on the rise, “I currently attend San Diego State University and am majoring in social work,” states Elizabeth. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a faster than average employment growth from now through 2026 for social workers. To add, Elizabeth is aiming to take her career across a variety of settings, including child welfare and human service agencies, schools, and hospitals. “I like to advocate for folks with many backgrounds.”
Reminiscing on the a-ha! moment that motivated her to pursue higher education, Elizabeth remarks, “I was in 5th grade at KIPP Adelante Preparatory Academy, a tight-knit school community and I was going on my first field trip.” She recounts the day, waking up for school to a buttery and flowery smell — her parents cooking a traditional Oaxacan breakfast — tlayuda made with masa azul and filled with squash flowers, quesillo (Oaxaca’s iconic cheese), and topped with salsa. On a full stomach, she was ready for the day’s adventure — touring colleges. Walking through the college halls and entering the classrooms, “I started to envision myself sitting in that seat one day.” The feeling set in, you know the feeling: stomach butterflies, sweaty palms, and excited nerves. Elizabeth says, “It was then that I realized there's a bigger world out there, which was eye-opening.”
Following that unforgettable field trip, Elizabeth started preparing her college journey. “My KIPP Through College (KTC) Counselor became like an older sister to me — I had someone I can speak to about my culture, aspirations, stressors, and more. I felt less alone in this educational journey.”
The encouragement does not end with KTC, Elizabeth has also found inspiration in her united, art-centric community. “I live in Barrio Logan.” For years, this neighborhood has been one of San Diego's best hidden gems, a lively hotspot for progressive art and authentic local culture with neighbors that care immensely for each other. “We take pride in our history.” For example, in the heart of Barrio Logan is Chicano Park, which serves as the common space for cultural celebrations throughout the year. Elizabeth describes it as a “free art museum/history book” that also houses the largest collection of Chicano murals in the world. “The murals are very important,” stresses Elizabeth. “They depict a different picture than what’s told in history books. Those images help us understand what actually happened and puts into perspective what is going on now.” Many of our struggles were normal to me, until I learned that we can speak against injustices/inequities and make a change!
Don’t underestimate the power of continued, small actions to make a positive impact. On that note, Elizabeth has taken the following roles to bring awareness to the causes she cares about:
- A volunteer at Census phone banks, in partnership with KIPP SoCal and Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti, to help secure funding in local communities for roads, housing, social programs, and more
- Artist aide to help share her community’s narrative on migration, cultural diversity, and racial equity via murals
- A member of the Environmental Health Coalition to address environmental racism
- An organizer of Voter Engagement Workshops to respond to police brutality and to ensure Barrio Logan is heard and represented
- A supporter of Californian artists such as Favianna Rodriguez and Alicia Maria Siu to amplify art interventions across the intersections of art, justice and cultural equity
Filled with passion and the eagerness to learn more and make a difference, Elizabeth is on a journey to empower and support her community. “I am working towards finding justice for my people,” highlights Elizabeth, a strong Indigenous woman. “There are factors that may try to stop us from voicing our concerns, but speak out!” As someone who once felt like being silent was the solution, Elizabeth stresses to “share and embrace your different perspective.” In other words, don’t stand on the sidelines. We can all work to create social change and make a difference in our community.