College Beat: Through Sports, Dreams Come True!
By Lilly Travieso
I’m a first-generation Hispanic American raised and born in Los Angeles, CA, with a multicultural background: Salvadorian, Puerto Rican, and Cuban. As a young Latina, I always dreamed to play college softball in a top university.
I began playing softball at the age of six. From the moment I held the glove in my hand, I felt a special connection to the game. As years passed, I played different sports, but over time, I developed a true passion for softball. Being an athlete at a young age provided me with many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. I traveled to Cuba to play softball against the Cuban Olympic team, and participated in a cultural exchange program, where I learned about Cuban culture. One summer, I represented Puerto Rico in the Junior Olympic National Team in the Women’s World Cup 19U Division. There, I met players from different parts of the country and the world! In spite of the different languages we all spoke, we all shared the same language of softball. Through softball, I’ve also learned to develop my leadership skills by learning to communicate effectively, lead by example, role model, mentor younger athletes, be a team player, and be inclusive of all.
When I started playing competitive softball and began to explore my college options, I realized the many inequalities that exist in the softball community for Latina Athletes. There is a heavy burden associated with financial expenses for athletes as they play competitively and began to explore college options. This financial burden is tied to travel club fees, uniforms, equipment, coaching, physical conditioning, athletic camps, SAT/ACT prep classes, as well as all the expenses associated with traveling. My own experience of living in a middle-class household required my family to live on a tight budget to be able to afford my own travel softball expenses and get the exposure I needed. My Christmas wish list always included: bats, gloves, and cleats to be able to offset some of the costs from my parents.
One thing that has puzzled me over the years, is how other young Latina athletes living in a similar or lower-class household could afford all these expenses in order to be prepared and have the same college options I had? Don’t they all have a dream? My first-hand experience with these inequalities in the sports community for Latinas inspired me to create a non-profit organization called Empowering Leadership in Latina Athletes (ELLA), which will help level the playing field by creating opportunities for young female Latina athletes.
I’m currently enrolled in the College of Arts and Life Sciences at Cornell University; through sports, the dreams of this young Latina did come true!