Hola! Mi nombre es Maria De Jesus Rocha y estoy super emocionada de ser parte de la familia Baldwin.

Where are you from? If I say Texas people will assume big cities or rolling plains, failing to capture my small town dominated by Mexican culture. So, I do what I always do. I form a rough Texas map by putting out my left-hand palm up and folding all fingers but the thumb and index. As I point to the right bottom most side of my hand I say, “I’m from the Rio Grande Valley, 30 min from the Mexican-American border.”

I am a culmination of my family and my environment. I am made up of all my mom’s dichos, my dad’s grito y musica banda, and my communities lively Spanglish and delicious gastronomy. It is for my people that I made the choice of leaving off for college. Never to forget where I am from, but so others could see in me the vibrant Mexican people. People driven by dreams not money, passionate about change not lust, who are hard workers not gang members or rapists.

I plan to pursue a major in Biology and minor in environmental science. However, being part of the Duke community has made me question things I thought I was sure of. This is open to change, and I know that whatever it is I chose to do, will be a step closer to pioneering change in the world.

I know the Baldwin community will help me live out my aspirations. The program will be fundamental to my emergence as a strong, confident woman. A woman who does not back down, who is not belittled by societal stigmas, but instead is transformed into an advocate for change and leader in the making. It is a true honor to carry the Baldwin title and continue the legacy of the empowerment of ourselves and those around us.