Finding A Better Path
Hazel Piña, a 5th year senior Human Development and Family Studies major, has become an important asset for the Latinx community at Penn State. As a Latina from Washington Heights, she empowers fellow students to appreciate and respect different cultures and strives for an inclusive Penn State community. She is currently the president of the Dominican Student Association and collaborates with other multi-cultural organizations to create events of interests for all minority students on campus.
However, Hazel’s passion for creating a sense of unity at Penn State comes from life experiences. From a young age, she volunteered in her community, where drug use was common. Little did she know, that the drug business would affect her own family. Since the 1980’s, her dad and two uncles had been smuggling drugs, but she wasn’t aware of this until she was much older. Her uncle was deported back to the Dominican Republic and her dad is currently serving a 10-year sentence in federal prison.
Even though Hazel’s dad was sent to prison her first semester at University Park, she hasn’t let this obstacle discourage her from pursuing her passion for social inclusion and equity. “Even though my dad is in prison in New Jersey and I can’t see him often, I talk to him all the time”, she says. Her relationship with her dad has strengthened within the last few years and talking to him on the phone has become an almost daily routine.
Hazel will walk across the stage during August’s graduation ceremony. “I got an internship close to home and I’m really excited about it”, she says. During these last few months as a student, Hazel continues to work hard for her goals and plans to go to graduate school in the future.