RICHMOND, Ky. (FOX 56) — An Eastern Kentucky University graduate is giving back in a big way.
Ivan Olivas graduated from EKU in 2021 with degrees in both computer science and Spanish.
Growing up, the pressure on Olivas to succeed was high.
“I was first generation college student,” Olivas explained. “I was the oldest sibling, single-parent household. So, I always had that pressure on me to, you know, do the best that I could with the opportunities that were out there.”
The Lexington native comes from a Hispanic family, leading him to live two separate lives. One speaking English and trying to build a career, and another speaking Spanish at home.
“Not many people who are from Latino or Mexican descent may have those experiences,” Olivas said. “Sometimes that can be isolating. But I had the opportunity to always grow up around people like me and around the culture.”
Dr. Jose Gomez-Becerra is an Associate Professor of Spanish and LatinX Studies at EKU; he was one of Olivas’ professors as well.
Gomez-Becerra said that embracing new cultures, it can lead to long term growth statewide.’
“For economic growth, for cultural growth, but particularly as a country where much in need of economic growth,” Gomez-Becerra explained. “In embracing learning from a crucial aspect of what is the mantle of the United States society.”
Embracing his culture and uniting EKU’s Latino/Latina community is something Olivas made a mission out of during his time at EKU.
“When I joined the EKU, I didn’t think there was going to be that big of a Latino next community, but there was,” Olivas said. “I was part of the Latino Students Association my freshman year and myself more year I became president. So the community only grew. And today it’s, you know, bigger than ever before.”
After graduation, Olivas went to work for PayPal, which gave him the chance to give back.
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Without hesitation, he chose to help the people who helped him most, giving $5,000 to EKU’s Latino Education Assistance Development Fund.
“Especially after COVID and that pandemic,” Olivas detailed. “A lot of students got hit very hard and I know that there’s a lot of people that can use the help. And I went out of my way to try to ask, you know, or get some sort of support and I’m glad I was able to, you know, contribute to something and helping out many students.”
Overall, the Hispanic population is one of the fastest-growing in the state with more than 75,000 people of Latin descent either moving to or being born in Kentucky from 2010 to 2020.