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Alumni Reflect on Andover Education in “Beyond Andover: Latinx Stories of Success”

G. WANG/The Phillipian

Elisa Istueta ’89, Frank Pinto ’08, and Josselyn de Leon ’13 spoke about their Latinx identities and the impact of their education at Andover.

As part of the “Beyond Andover: Latinx Stories of Success” event, Elisa Istueta ’89, Frank Pinto ’08, and Josselyn de Leon ’13 discussed the impact of their Andover education on their lives. Alianza Latina, Andover’s Latinx affinity group, hosted the event on Friday, October 4 during Andover’s first celebration of Latinx Heritage Month.

Istueta is currently the executive director at Directions for Our Youth, Inc., a non-profit that creates educational programs for underprivileged students. According to Istueta, her Andover experience inspired her to provide these students with opportunities for success.

“Andover changed my life. It changed the trajectory of my life because of the education I received, because of the doors that it opened, and where I was able to go after. For me, that has been my mission. How can I do that for kids who don’t have those opportunities?” said Istueta.

Pinto is the vice president of engineering at Lendbuzz, a car loan company geared towards expats and international students. He spoke about the importance of providing students with a proper educational foundation, noting that a lack of success in school can often be attributed to a lack of preparation.

“I don’t think [underperformance] has anything to do with capacity, I don’t think that has anything to do with just being less smart, and I think it has everything to do with preparation… I don’t want to impose upon all of the audience because I know we’re pretty diverse, but we’re all coming from under-resourced backgrounds. We’re all coming from schools that didn’t have any way to push us,” said Pinto.

At Andover, Pinto learned to express his emotions in words. For Pinto, this skill provided a means to connect with others and form meaningful relationships.

“A lot of us don’t know how to talk about what we’re going through. We don’t know what words to use. We don’t know how to put it into language… [Andover] really taught me to use the right words, to open up, to connect with people on a deeper, more fundamental level. At the end of the day, it’s a bunch of smart people, a bunch of empathetic people, but you’re still in high school. People are going to be mean. If you learn to develop a good relationship through talking, [its] super super important,” said Pinto.

Pinto’s experience with interpersonal communication resonated with attendee Melani Garcia ’21. Garcia considered the influence of Pinto’s childhood over his life.

“[Pinto] said that coming from Boston as a Salvadoran, you’re raised to not speak about how you feel. He would always bottle it up and ignore what he was going through. It wasn’t until he got [to Andover] that he realized that he couldn’t go on like this,” said Garcia.

Another skill that Pinto learned at Andover was mental fortitude. According to Pinto, his Andover experience translated into several aspects of his life thereafter.

“I graduated [from Andover] not with the right habits, I graduated here with brute force. I’m good at x, y, z, and I’m going to power through x, y, z. Even if you graduate with that, [Andover] makes a lot of things in life way, way easier,” said Pinto.

While at Andover, de Leon, now a legislative aide at the Massachusetts State House, never thought she would eventually pursue a career in politics. Instead of having their futures completely set, de Leon believes that Andover students should leave their options open and think about what makes them happy.

“Don’t be so set on who you want to be, but more so define a path of what you want to do in life. Instead of saying, ‘my goal is to be the CEO of this company,’ think about what makes you happy… You can do that in a lot of different capacities. There’s not just one path or one job that does that,” said de Leon.

Echoing de Leon, Pinto advised against setting restrictions on career options at a young age. Pinto regrets confining himself to math and computer science at Andover.

“You don’t know what you want to do at 14 years old, or 15, or 16. If you stick with that, you are necessarily disconnecting yourself with very large, very real parts of yourself. I feel like I could have been just as happy or happier as a writer, writing stories about Central Americans in the Northeast, because you know how many of those I’ve read? None. I could have done photography. I could have pursued something in politics through the econ route. But the fact that I left here and I was so set, it closes some doors for you,” said Pinto.

As one of the moderators of the panel, Emiliano Caceres ’22 hoped that Latinx students had the opportunity to see themselves reflected in the speakers.

Caceres said, “I thought we got a lot of really diverse viewpoints from several different times in the development of Alianza. I think we did a pretty good job of giving students access to lots of different viewpoints about the Latinx experience.”