Breaking the colonial shackles

How an UnidosUS Líderes Con Alas fellow found a life mission in dark times

Matt Hinojosa | Lideres con Alas | UnidosUS | latino youth leaders

Matt Hinojosa Photo: Lupito’s Photography

By John Marth, Senior Content Specialist

Most people try to hide from the San Antonio sun, but Matt Hinojosa found something special in the scorching heat.

“I could feel myself getting close to this transcendental force just by being outside and working on the land,” he says. He was doing landscaping full-time and found a few hidden benefits no one told him about. “I could drink all day,” he says, “just detoxing and sweating in the sun.”

“It felt good, but at the same time, that was when I was deepest in my addiction.”

He was taking a few semesters off from college to save for tuition and a car, and to pay off fines from drug and alcohol charges.

Matt had been drinking and using drugs since he was a teenager, and it was affecting every part of his life. By the time he started landscaping, he’d dropped out of two different colleges, been arrested, and was losing hope.

“I was in a really dark place in my life. I didn’t have much to be proud of.”

Not long after, another semester in college would put him in touch with his Chicanx history and get him sober. All of these things—addiction, recovery, connection to something larger—would lead Matt to his life’s work.

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Finding the power of family at home and in the classroom

Sonia Gonzalez—a participant of UnidosUS’s Escalera and Líderes Avanzando programs—credits her East LA upbringing and her family’s perseverance and compassion for guiding her path to college and beyond

At center: Sonia Gonzalez and; UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía pose with guests at our 2017 Annual Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. <em>Photo: Sonia Gonzalez</em>

Sonia Gonzalez Photo: Sonia Gonzalez

By Jennifer Wennig for UnidosUS

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Sonia Sotomayor has said, “Remember that no one succeeds alone. Never walk alone in your future paths.” This is a sentiment that captures the experiences of another strong Latina named Sonia.

Growing up in East LA, Sonia Gonzalez was determined to pursue higher education as early as in elementary school. Planning to go to college was not an “option” but a “requirement” in Sonia’s mind.

It was an ambition rooted in the lessons given by her family, who have provided lifelong examples of perseverance and service.

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