Elvita Quiñones, creating opportunities for academic and professional growth
She is keen on helping Latinx students and young professionals become leaders of the future.
MORE IN THIS SECTION
From the time she was a little girl, Elvita Quiñones has been dedicated to giving back and helping others.
This commitment can all be traced back to her upbringing, as well as her ancestors.
Now that she is in a position to give back and help others in the manner in which so many others did for her, it’s an endeavor she takes full advantage of and doesn’t take for granted.
In both her roles as associate director at the Center for Undergraduate Advising at Temple University’s Fox School of Business and president of Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA) Philadelphia, she’s able to combine her two biggest passions.
Generations of Giving Back
Quiñones is a native of Newark, New Jersey, born to first generation Puerto Rican parents whose families both immigrated to the mainland.
Both of her parents and their families came from very humble backgrounds.
“They were in extreme poverty, so when they came to the mainland, it was in hopes of a better life,” said Quiñones in an interview with AL DÍA.
“One of the things that was really important to them was that they gave their children the opportunity to grow up somewhere that they were safe,” she added.
However, the desire to want better for others goes much deeper than that.
While in Puerto Rico, Quiñones’ maternal grandparents met a group of missionaries and later themselves became Mennonites.
“It really impacted their lives and the rest of our lives because they really helped her and her family out in different ways,” said Quiñones of her grandmother.
When her grandparents settled in Brooklyn, New York, they started a church out of their home and helped other families with basic needs, such as finding jobs and resources to adapt to the mainland.
“Family and community and helping communities is really important to my entire family,” said Quiñones. “No matter what you do, or what you achieve, it’s always important that you give back to others.”
The Only One
During her elementary and middle school years, Quiñones’ parents moved her and brother to Warminster, and later Dublin, Pennsylvania.
In those environments, she was often among the only Puerto Ricans in her school.
Growing up with proud Puerto Rican parents, they always made sure to remind her of her Puerto Rican culture and heritage.
However, she learned early on that her heritage made her “different.”
“I would say my name properly like my parents taught me, and I learned that wasn’t always looked upon favorably by other people,” she noted.
At 13, Quiñones came in contact with a skinhead who told her he didn’t like Puerto Ricans, except for her “because she was cute.”
Despite not knowing what skinheads or white supremacy hate groups were at the time, “I just knew it didn’t feel right,” she said.
“That’s kind of my beginning of awakening, realizing that I wasn’t always accepted in the environments that I was living, or it was looked down upon, or made people kind of feel uncomfortable,” said Quiñones.
While a difficult realization, it taught her to be more mindful and aware of her surroundings and who she interacted with.
A Further Awakening
Fast forward to high school, and Quiñones and her family moved to Philadelphia.
There, she saw more people who looked like her. However, during summers her mother would send her to Puerto Rico, and every other weekend to Brooklyn, to spend time with family there.
“I very much knew my culture, who I was, where I come from, and then going to Puerto Rico and seeing a bunch of people that are part of my culture… and I felt disconnected because I wasn’t from the island, but I felt connected because there are many different people so it’s not a big deal,” said Quiñones.
Seeing the diversity throughout Puerto Rico awakened Quiñones to dive deeper into the history of the United States, and how different people are perceived.
Back in Philadelphia, Quiñones’ mom didn’t want her going to school in the city, as she understood the common struggles many city school districts often faced.
So, she sent her to a boarding school in Lancaster. There, she was surrounded primarily by Mennonites, who were often of German descent.
However, given the history of Mennonite missionaries bringing people of different cultures and backgrounds into the Mennonite faith, Quiñones had an opportunity to grow close to the diverse people who lived in the same dorm.
“We came from different areas, but we also all experienced a lot of racism,” she said. “It kind of unified us.”
“And it really awakened me in seeing I wasn’t the only one experiencing this, there’s a lot of people experiencing this, but also want to achieve more in life, that want an opportunity in life and for their families,” she added.
A New Light
Quiñones earned her way into a full ride scholarship to West Chester University, where she finally was able to find a community of individuals who looked like her.
While at West Chester, Quiñones found two organizations that would be critical to her time as an undergrad.
One was the Office of Multicultural Affairs, which unites all students of color and connects them with mentors and peer advisors who help engage the students throughout their college experience.
“They engaged us in every step of our experience at West Chester… they were very much invested in seeing us being successful,” she said of the mentors and advisors.
This was critical for Quiñones, who worked two jobs for college to provide for herself. As a first-generation college student of color, she learned very valuable lessons from her mentors and advisors, and now passes that advice down to her college-aged son, and other students of color.
The second was the Lambda Theta Alpha, the first Latina sorority in the country.
“They taught me so much about professionalism, professional development [and] all those soft skills that weren’t necessarily taught in the classroom,” said Quiñones.
Becoming a sorority sister helped Quiñones develop a large network of educated Latinos, who like her, were trying to improve their lives and also their communities.
She remains actively involved with the sorority to this day.
The Power of ALPFA
Despite earning her undergraduate degree in political science, Quiñones’ professional career has been almost exclusively in higher education.
After different roles with Eastern University and Esperanza College, in 2007 Quiñones joined Temple University’s Fox School of Business.
Starting out as an academic advisor, she has been in her role as Associate Director at the Center for Undergraduate Advising since 2010.
About six years ago, a group of undergrad students approached Quiñones wanting to start a Latino business student organization. Once she heard more about their idea for the organization, Quiñones was immediately onboard.
After going through the process of creating a student organization, in the spring of 2017, ALPFA’s Temple University chapter was officially launched.
Within a few months, Quiñones — who serves as the staff adviser for the chapter — saw the true power of the organization during one of its regional student summits.
“It was life changing,” she said of the event.
“These students are really doing a lot and the national organization is doing a lot for the students, opening doors to opportunities, and I want to be able to pass that on continually to other students,” she added.
ALPFA has helped Quiñones further grow her own professional network, while also helping students create theirs.
New Chapter President
Last year, Quiñones decided to run for a board position for ALPFA’s Philadelphia chapter, as director of student engagement.
However, she instead was approached for the president position.
“They approached me and said, ‘We’d really be interested in having you run for president because… you work with students and we really want to engage more students into our membership,’” she recalled.
Beyond that, ALPFA Philadelphia was looking to bridge the gap between recruiters and students, and encourage more mid- and upper-level professionals to engage with the organization.
“Being mid-level myself and working with students, they thought it would be a good fit,” said Quiñones.
In 2022, Quiñones was officially named the new president of Philadelphia’s ALPFA chapter.
Through her involvement with the organization, Quiñones has been highly encouraged by the level of dedication to create professional development opportunities for people who have often been excluded from certain spaces.
A Vision of Advancing DE&I
Quiñones’ is eager to see this effort continue moving forward.
As the mother of a college freshman, she is hopeful that her son and the next generation of Latino college students and young professionals don’t have to face the same roadblocks she faced.
“The demographics of the country is changing, so we need businesses and educational institutions to take heed to that because there is profit in diversity,” said Quiñones.
At Temple, Quiñones is hopeful to see more representation at all levels, bringing those diverse voices together and implementing change that can have a positive impact on everyone.
“I see education and I see business both moving in the right direction, and anything I can do to help facilitate that in my lifetime, I want to be a part of that change,” she noted.
With ALPFA, she is looking to make a similar impact, helping ensure that diverse students and early career professionals are provided with tools to grow in their careers and enter into space they’ve often been excluded from.
While noting it’s a big responsibility, she wants to be that representative voice to ensure that those she is leading get exactly what they need.
“We're trying to grow talent, so we can open up more doors to create more spaces for executive Latino professionals,” said Quiñones.