Mayra Tenorio is a member of Cristo Rey St. Martin Class of 2011. She is a Swarthmore alumna ’15 (BA Sociology and Anthropology). This fall she is headed to Cambrige University as part of the Gates Cambridge Scholarship, a program for individuals who demonstrate outstanding intellectual ability, leadership potential, and a commitment to improving the world. Mayra will head to Cambridge this fall to continue her Anthropology studies.
How was your Cristo Rey experience?
I loved high school. I really feel that that is where I found my voice. It was the first time that I was in a place where I had adults believing in me, encouraging me to ask questions, to participate and to lead. For students of color, we aren’t really given that opportunity in the way that other students are. The majority of us are first generation. We are daughters and sons of immigrants; we don’t have adults telling us we our voices have value. So I was lucky to come into my own in that space through all my mentors and teachers in that space.
What I always loved about Cristo Rey St. Martin and what I love now when I go back as an alumna is that I feel that you are allowed to be who you are. Cristo Rey St. Martin embodies the importance of community. Each individual has talents and gifts to bring and they are celebrated for that. I had the opportunity to grow in my faith, participating in volunteering and service, but I was able to take on leadership roles.
How did Cristo Rey prepare you for college?
Cristo Rey St. Martin is college-prep, the courses and skills they teach are meant to prepare you for college. To be a first-generation student, a student of color in these institutions that are predominantly white can be difficult and intimidating. With the CWSP that confidence is built in students. We are given the opportunity to be in majority white environments. You get that social capital, the different thing that you need to survive spaces where maybe you are the only ones there. And not just survive but succeed. We claim our space since we are 14 or 15, and when you are 18 or 19 it’s easier to see challenges as not bringing me down but as opportunities to prove myself and to know that I can overcome and not fear these spaces.
Talk more about the Gates Cambridge Scholarship.
There are a lot of UK scholarships, internationally and in the US that allow you to study at these prestigious UK institutions. But the Gates Cambridge Scholarship is unique in that the scholars are very talented academically but also see a responsibility in having resources and access to education and using their academic privileges to help the world. I was really attracted to that message, not only because I want to pursue academia, but the goal of my research would be to get rid of gender inequality. So I’m joining this movement to end gender inequality. My opportunity to add my grain of salt is to uplift and recognize the voices of women of color—the movements and resistance that women of color are behind—get my masters, study for a year and bring this platform for indigenous women to academia. This is a huge privilege and I’m obviously benefitting but with that comes huge responsibility to make my work worthwhile.
What inspires you as you pursue your career?
In respect to women and women’s lives, our Latino community. I can’t afford not to believe that there is a better future for us because it’s me that I’m talking about. I’m a woman; I’m Latina; I’m an immigrant. It is hope that keeps me going. There are bridges popping up. There are different ways to lead. I hope to be someone who is very willing to join and hold hands with other movements, with others already bringing change. I stay hopeful and celebrate those who are already making change and help in whatever way I can.