Tracing the Development of Latinx Students at Andover

Though he considered the overall experience of Latinx students a success at Andover, Jorge Allen, former Instructor in Spanish, expressed that they lacked a way to address their culture on campus in his 2003 lecture titled “Ni de Aquí ni de Alla [From Neither Here Nor There]: The Latino/Latina Experience at Phillips Academy Andover.”

In a May 2003 Phillipian article covering the event, Maria Blackwood ’06 summarized that Allen believed that “while the Andover campus is very diverse, the general student body lacks a good awareness of Latino issues and the value of Latino culture.”

At the time of Allen’s presentation in 2003, there was no club or organization specifically created for the needs of the Latinx students. Although Alianza Latina was formed in 1996, it “disintegrated” after 1998, according to a 2006 Phillipian article. Today, however, Alianza Latina has re-emerged and serves as a cultural group for all Latinx-identifying students, becoming an affinity space in 2017. Additionally, reflecting an increased commitment to learning about Latinx identity, Andover recently celebrated its second annual Latinx Heritage Month, taking place from September 15 to October 15. Before 2019, Andover celebrated Latin Arts Weekend instead of the full month.

Andover’s history with Latinx students dates back to 1963, when the school helped initiate the “A Better Chance” (A.B.C.) program, an access organization founded to increase the number of students of color at preparatory schools, according to Allen. Through this recruitment program, Andover began admitting Latinx students in the 1960s and 70s. Six years after the African-American students’ group Af-Am Society was founded in 1967, the club was renamed to African-Latinx-American Society (Af-Lat-Am) in order to include more students of color in their space, according to the brochure for Af-Lat-Am’s 50th Anniversary in 2018.

In the 1980s, however, students began discussing forming an affinity space exclusively for Latinx students. Students such as Ricardo Dobles ’85 argued that Af-Lat-Am primarily served the African-American experience, according to Allen. In 1996, Nick Olmo ’98 formed La Alianza Latina, Alianza Latina’s predecessor, with three other students to focus on the Latinx experience at Andover.

“A lot of us [Latinos on campus] at the time did not know nearly enough about our own cultures to be ambassadors on campus. We felt that we needed La Alianza Latina to exist for our own education so that we could then share our knowledge and experiences with the entire community,” said Olmo in a November 2006 Phillipian article.

When Olmo graduated, interest for a Latinx affinity space remained, however, the club was disbanded due to lack of leadership. A 2006 Phillipian article reported meetings between Latinx students to create another affinity group. The current club, Alianza Latina, was officially founded in the 2010s.

According to Allen, both Latinx alumni and students of the early 2000’s reported a lack of connection with their cultural background while at Andover. This duality is further explored in his presentation title, translated from Spanish, “From Neither Here Nor There.”

“As part of the Greener Study, alumni and alumnae of Latino origin were asked about their experiences at Andover. Many noted a ‘duality’ and loss of connection with their home communities and cultural backgrounds during their Andover years. Mr. Allen said this sentiment is still expressed by students today. He emphasized the need for Latino students and others to explore their identities and cultural heritages, questioning whether Andover provides sufficient opportunities for this to occur,” wrote Blackwood.

Current Latinx-identifying students Fred Javier ’23 and Victoria Ortiz ’23 both believe that Alianza Latina helped them find community at Andover. For Javier, coming to Andover from a predominantly Black and Latinx neighborhood, he felt cultural shock when arriving at a predonominantly-white institution like Andover.

“[Alianza Latina talks] about the issues of how we feel in Andover and how our Latinx identity related to the issues we experience at Andover and our overall experience. I would say that early Alianza Latina definitely helped a lot in that because there was a space where all the Latinx students were, so I could relate to everyone there and I could make connections with people that I felt comfortable talking to,” said Javier.

Victoria Ortiz ’23 shares a similar experience with Javier. In classroom discussions, she feels that her perspective is taken to represent every Latinx experience, since Latinx students are underrepresented on campus. According to the 2020 State of the Academy, 7.2-percent of the student body identifies as Latinx, an increase from 5-percent in 2006. After finding more spaces on campus for Latinx students, Ortiz enjoyed sharing her experiences with those from backgrounds like hers.

“There’s not that many [Latinx people] on campus. I think there’s [about] 100 out of the whole school. In classes and stuff, we’re very underrepresented in those spaces, and it’s very awkward sometimes because in a lot of my classes I’m the only Latinx person in them, and I kind of have to account for all of our experiences and represent everyone. It’s really nice because in [Office of Community and Multicultural Development, where Alianza Latina meets], I can go back to all those people and share experiences,” said Ortiz.

According to Jessica Acosta-Chavez ’06, Associate Director of Admissions and Director of Multicultural Outreach and a Latinx alum, while many of Andover’s students of color were recruited through access organizations in the past decades, Andover’s recent recruitment efforts and online resources have made the school more accessible to students of color.

“From my own experience learning about Andover, it was through an access organization that helped me learn more about boarding schools, and I think for many maybe over the last couple of decades, that was one way for Andover to find students of color, including Latinx students, but I also think students have always found Andover in some way shape or form… Sometimes people assume that, not just Latinx students, but students of color are only coming from access organizations, and we actually have much more students of color not coming from access programs, ” said Acosta-Chavez.

After the 2019-20 school year, 53-percent of the student body identified students of color, and 35-percent of the faculty are people of color. Acosta-Chavez expressed that Andover’s progress in diversifying the student body is a place of pride for the school and students and faculty of color.

Acosta-Chavez said, “I’m proud of the direction that Andover is going to recruit Latinx and students of color in general. You know, I think having our school be over 50-percent students of color now is a big deal, and I think that’s something to be proud of. I think that reflects our growing efforts in the admissions office, but also our multicultural changing country and the kinds of students that are interested in Andover.”