Salma Anguiano’s summer has been marked by travel.
First, she put her Mandarin to test while studying abroad in China. Then, she hopped across the states for a leadership conference in New York. In just a few days, she’ll be heading back to Whitman College Campus in Walla Walla, Wash. to resume her double major in politics and race and ethnic studies.
Life wasn’t always this way for Anguiano. She was born in Pasco, Washington and moved to Hermiston as a toddler with her mother, who was married when Anguiano turned 10.
“I grew up watching my parents work really long hours at hard jobs,” she said.
Her mother and stepfather, both from Mexico, worked various agricultural jobs in the area. But when Anguiano turned 14, her stepfather got in a work accident that left him quadriplegic and unable to work.
“It was such a life changing experience, it happened suddenly. It taught me to be very patient and compassionate,” she said.
Anguiano stepped in to help her family, putting hours in the fields and picking up odd jobs in the community. As a sophomore in high school, she started dishwashing at Chen’s restaurant. Her best friend, whose parents own the place, soon trained her to be a waitress. In her free time, she put hours into helping lead Family, Career and Community Leaders of America organization at a state level through Hermiston High School.
“Growing up my parents definitely wanted me to go to college,” Anguiano said. “I definitely wasn’t a stranger to any of the sacrifices they had to make to make it easy for me to go to school.”
Before graduation in 2018, Anguiano applied for more than 30 colleges. She said that as a first-generation college student, the process wasn’t easy, but she eventually settled on Whitman College.
“In Hermiston, a lot of people are first-gen,” she said. “There’s also a lot of people from low-income families. I think Hermiston High School pushes students to take the right steps to apply and get into college. I had to teach myself everything. I always asked for help. It’s something that was hard for me at first. As a first generation student, you don’t want to ask for help. But you have to.”
Nowadays, in addition to giving campus tours at Whitman, Anguiano is also the First Generation Working Class intern at her school. She helps get resources and create programming for first generation and working class students like herself at Whitman.
This year, for the second year in a row, Anguiano has been a recipient of the Workers’ Memorial Scholarship from the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division. The scholarship is for family members of Oregon workers who have been fatally injured or permanently disabled while working.
It’s one of numerous scholarships she’s earned to help fund her education through the Oregon Office of Student Access and Completion scholarship portal.
“I recommend kids apply to OSAC,” Anguiano said. “Without those scholarships it would have been difficult for me to do this kind of work.”
The work Anguiano refers to involves a bill she’s working to create with lobbyists through her school. It’s focused on advocacy around worker compensation.
Last year, she traveled with Whitman to New York for the Debate for Democracy National Conference, where she helped defend the bill during a legislative hearing.
“Our school ended up tying with Pitzer College, and we won an award for our advocacy efforts,” Anguiano said.
This year, she’s helped procure more funding to continue advocating for the bill.
In the future, she’s interested in maybe running for political office. Mostly, she wants to pursue grassroots work.
“I love doing social justice work and work with nonprofits. I know it doesn’t pay very well, but if I can just afford to live and do what I love, I’ll be happy,” Anguiano said.