Student Spotlight | Luz Nicacio and Liliana Adler

The SJSU Lurie College of Education provides a range of grants to students to support their academic endeavors to become transformative educators, counselors, therapists, and leaders.  We spoke with Department of Child and Adolescent Development students Luz Nicacio and Liliana Adler, who received support to attend the Latinx Leads conference, to learn more about their experiences and how they have shaped them going forward.  Listen to Luz and Lily’s insights below!

SJSU Lurie College of Education Child and Adolescent Development Department Students Luz Nicacio and Liliana Adler

“I think it’s important that everyone knows that there’s people who grow up a lot differently than you do and have different values than you do, so it’s important to educate yourself about those kinds of values and be an open ear and an ally to people who may not look like you.”

Can you introduce yourselves for our listeners?

Luz: Hi, my name is Luz Nicacio.  I am an undergrad and a Child and Adolescent Development (ChAD) major with the community focus.

Lily: My name is Liliana Adler.  I’m an undergraduate and I’m studying child development with a preparation for teaching.

What is the Latinx Leads conference?  Why were you interested in attending?

Luz: The Latinx Leads conference is a student leadership conference that is a gathering of other Latinx students and leaders as well as campus-based advisors to address the most critical topics of adversity and social justice challenging our Latinx community within colleges and universities.  Through workshops, keynote sessions, and round-table discussions, teams of students will acquire the knowledge and skills needed to advance Latinx related causes and increase the participation and leadership roles within their campuses.

Lily: I was actually invited by the College of Education to attend.  I actually attended a retreat from the SJSU Chicanx/Latinx Center that they have annually around the fall time.  It’s the same kind of concept where it teaches leadership skills but also teaches about the history of different types of oppressions and challenges that many Latinx people have faced.  After attending that, I was invited to attend this conference and I was really interested in it because I myself went through this identity crisis moment when I was growing up.  I wasn’t really surrounded by people that looked like me.  After attending the retreat, it really helped me like solidify who I am and where I come from.  Attending it also gave me an opportunity to immerse myself more and, like, people that look like me and that have gone through similar situations that I have.  I became really passionate about it but because I have such a busy life I didn’t have the time to do it academically.  Being able to do something like this was a good opportunity to learn in a less serious setting and be able to apply it to real life.  It gave me a big motivational push to work in like social justice issues and be able to advocate for people that might not have that desire or are struggling to do it.

Luz: Same for me.  I was also invited to be a be a part of the conference.  I have leadership positions here in the College of Education, so I just wanted to expand my leadership skills more than anything.  I also wanted to learn how to become a stronger leader and also become an ally to our Latinx communities by, you know, bringing more inclusion into not just the College of Education but San Jose State as a whole.  I also want to solidify that we’re here, we belong, and I want to create a safe space for all of us.

What was an experience that each of you had that will have a lasting impact on you?

Lily: We were actually one of the few schools, I think the only school, from California who attended the conference.  Everyone else came from Midwestern universities, I know Penn State was there, some smaller campuses in upstate New York.  The thing that I think resonated with me the most was to be humble and to just be really grateful to come to a university like SJSU that really creates a campus environment that wants to see students succeed despite who they identify as or what they identify with.  A lot of the schools didn’t have centers for any of the individual colleges let alone for different cultures, and they didn’t have things like food pantries or helping students find housing on campus.  I remember specifically sharing a story about what kinds of things we do on campus to make students more aware of the different cultures and the other universities in attendance had never even come close to an idea like that.  For example, I had mentioned the faculty dinner that the Chicanx/Latinx Center does and they thought that was the coolest thing ever and had never considered a concept like that.  Overall, I think it was just really humbling to know that our school makes those efforts to get to connect with students.  It also enlightened me about how much work still needs to be done in educating people about different cultures and how to let them know that there’s people that may not look like them or that do look like them identify differently.  It also motivated me to really want to educate others about who I am and where I come from as well as being that ally, like Luz had said, to others who are struggling with it.  There’s so many opportunities to create that kind of help that they might not have ever experienced or that the school doesn’t even offer.

Luz: Similar to what Lily said, getting to meet other students from other college campuses across the United States was really awesome.  Also like Lily said, we take for granted what we have at San Jose State and just hearing their experiences about how they don’t have certain stuff – they don’t have faculty of color, they don’t have these safe areas for their Latinx students to feel welcome, etc. – it’s just humbling and eye opening just to be have go to a school that does include that already.  I’m grateful for that and just seeing how we could help maybe them incorporate those kinds of spaces into their college campuses, which was also really cool.

How has attending this conference shaped each of you going forward?

Lily: Growing up I was really quiet, but I had a lot of opinions (I’m very opinionated).  I always wanted to share them, but being who I was – being female, being Latina, and being more Americanized – I struggled with that identity so I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my opinions.  Coming to something like this conference gave me that motivation that you don’t have to look a certain way or be a certain way to say something.  From that, being surrounded by the faculty that were there and like my peers, it really just motivated me to voice my opinion if I want change.  It was a confidence boost that I feel like I really needed to think ‘I have opinions about things I see issues, I want them changed, and me just sitting quietly is not going to do anything.’  Now that I know and I’m able to solidify my identity, I know that I have these strong leadership skills and I know who I am.  Now I can combine them to do something powerful with it, which includes just saying something when I think it’s not right or advocating for those that feel like they can’t be advocated for.  Being a with people that feel that way, it highlighted how I want to be that person for them.  It really was a big motivational confidence boost that I think is going to stick with me and has since then.  It was really rewarding and I think that’s the biggest thing that I took away from all of it.

Luz: A big takeaway for me from the conference was that my voice matters, my opinions and my story matters, and my voice has the power to make change no matter what it is.  It solidified saying that student voices matter, student of color voices matter, and if we want to meet see changes in some of these college campuses that we have the power to change that.   With that, we can basically do anything and we’re unstoppable, so that a big takeaway for me.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about this topic, your field, etc.?

Lily: Make yourself aware of who you surround yourself with.  We’re very fortunate to live in this melting pot of like so many different cultures.  It’s important that you educate yourself, especially with who you’re associating yourself with.  Growing up, I felt like there was always like this cookie cutter of ‘Oh you’re this, then need to be this; you identify as this, this okay need to act like this kind of way.’  I think it’s important that everyone knows that there’s people who grow up a lot differently than you do and have different values than you do, so it’s important to educate yourself about those kinds of values and be an open ear and an ally to people who may not look like you.

Luz: Another thing I would like to mention is that a lot of people don’t think they’re leaders but I feel like everybody has leadership qualities.  You just need to know what they are and I would recommend to try to go to a leadership retreat that interests you, just to see what it is, have that feeling, and experience it for one time.  I’m sure it’s going to be a big difference in your life, and the little things from that experience can be incorporated into your daily life and you can make a big change.

Connect with Lurie College at to receive more news about academic and student life!  Audio recorded and edited by Brian Cheung Dooley.  “Adventure” provided royalty free by  Interview transcription provided by

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