WHS graduate receives prestigious Phillips scholarship

WORTHINGTON -- Andrea's Duarte experiences have shaped her as a young woman who wants to make a difference. Her interest in social justice and politics has allowed her to work closely with policy makers and social advocates.

Andrea Duarte is shown on the campus of St. Catherine University in St. Paul. (Photo by Sharon Rolenc / St. Catherine University)

WORTHINGTON - Andrea’s Duarte experiences have shaped her as a young woman who wants to make a difference. Her interest in social justice and politics has allowed her to work closely with policy makers and social advocates.


Through her educational path in Worthington High School as well as St. Catherine University, Duarte has taken advantage of every chance presented to her that meant an opportunity to better herself and her community. When Duarte heard about the Phillips Scholars program last November, she said she knew the scholarship was an opportunity she couldn't waste.


The Phillips Scholars program aims to encourage students from a variety of disciplines to design and implement community service projects that make life better for those with unmet needs. The $16,500 scholarship is meant to provide academic financial help as well as support the students’ projects.



“I thought it was a very cool scholarship because you don't only get the money, but you also have the chance to give back,” Duarte said.


As a true believer in the power of storytelling, she presented her idea “Stories from Unheard Voices,” a project that seeks to bring multicultural awareness to Worthington residents and beyond. The project will focus on narrating the stories of Latin American immigrants in Worthington.


Duarte was driving back home for spring break when she was notified by the Minnesota Private College Council that she was one of six Minnesota private college students who received the scholarship.


“I was in shock,” Duarte said. “I was very surprised because this is a very competitive scholarship.”



She will collaborate with St. Mary’s Catholic Church and the Nobles County Integration Collaborative (NCIC) to bring to light the struggles of Latin American immigrants.


With the compilation of stories, Duarte hopes to reach out to public officials who represent Worthington at the local, state and national levels.


“NCIC and St. Mary’s Church will be the backbone to my project, which is made up of two components - collecting immigrant stories and lobbying public officials,” Duarte wrote in her project’s proposal.


She said that throughout her educational path she has been able to discover her true passions, which are social justice and policy making. Duarte had the opportunity to be part of the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota, and went to Washington, D.C. to learn about the law-making process.



“I think stories are very important and have the power to influence others,” Duarte said. “When I was in D.C. … I realized that state representatives don’t care if you bring them statistics because they know them themselves. But if you bring stories to them, they are more likely to pay more attention.”


The inspiration for the project, Duarte said, came from internal and external influences. As a daugher of Mexican immigrants, Duarte has experienced firsthand the sacrifices that immigrant families must make.


“Sometimes when I go back to Worthington and I am at Wal-Mart ,and I see a Latino family where maybe the mother is struggling with English and her 8-year-old daugher is helping her,” Duarte said. “I feel nostalgic because that was me at one point.”


Duarte’s parents arrived to the U.S as teenagers. Her father started working in the fields of California to help his mother financially. Meanwhile, Duarte’s mother escaped from political violence and began working at a beef processing plant.


“With the stories, I hope to start with my parents because I don’t think they have been detailed enough with me,” Duarte said. “I think it’s hard for them to explain their  journey to the United State and why they left their country.”


Duarte also mentioned that she wanted to fight the anti-immigrant rhetoric of President Donald Trump.


“People don't understand what my parents needed to go through to come to the U.S.,” Duarte said. “People don't understand what my parents have gone through to help me get my bachelor's degree. It was really the rhetoric of Donald Trump  … that really angered me and I said, ‘No, somebody has to tell their stories.”’  


Duarte said Latin American immigrant stories aren’t as well known as those stories of European descendants, and that’s something she wants to change.  


“I understand their (European descendants) stories and that they were one of the very first immigrants here, but let’s talk more about other immigrants who are coming into the United States for important reasons,” Duarte said.  


Duarte will be working on her project during the rest of her college career. She hopes to write a book about the stories she will be discovering through her project once it’s finished.

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