Soy Mi Cuento: Latina Students Bridging Multiple Worlds in Independent Schools

Lillian Diaz-Imbelli, St. John Fisher College


The dissertation explores the hybrid identity, mestiza consciousness (Anzaldúa, 1999), of Latina graduates of independent schools. Latinas currently represent one of the lowest performing, fastest growing, youngest ethnic minority groups in the United States (United States Census, 2010), and the smallest demographic in independent schools (Torres, 2012). Education offers Latinas academic and social capital for economic advancement and college opportunity (Gándara & Contreras, 2009; Santiago, 2013); independent schools are an important entry to gaining this capital. Latinas attending independent schools often enter heterogeneous educational environments for the first time and find the need to explore their identity more salient (French, Seidman, Allen, and Aber, 2006). The experience results in bridging multiple worlds as students experience dissonance (Alvarez, 2011) negotiating their place and their experience. The purpose of the research is to answer the question, “Does an awareness of identity development offer an advantage to navigate the elite independent school cultural milieu?” Through testimonio (Pérez Huber, 2009), a form of storytelling or personal narrative, and Gloria Anzaldúa’s (1999) autohistoría-teoría, the research gathered data from successful Latina independent school graduates about their experiences in independent schools. The research explored Latina identity development in the context of her school experience from the perspective of a new mestiza consciousness (Anzaldúa, 1999) and offers a countervailing perspective to Deficit Studies (Madrid, 2011). Latina participants underscored Anzaldúa’s theory of hybrid identity development indicating that socioeconomic status and family influence had a profound impact on their identity development.