MLT Blog

Reflecting on Orlando – Pavel’s Perspective

By: Pavel Sandoval, Career Prep 2014, Guest Experience Manager – Leadership Development at Walt Disney World

In light of the devastating events that recently occurred in Orlando, Career Prep Alum, Pavel Sandoval shares a reflective piece on the importance of advancing diversity. We hope you find his story as inspiring as we did.

A year ago I wrote an article talking about the real obstacles I’ve had to overcome as a gay Latino. The reality is that people like me still live in a society where my mere existence is still a point of contention.

The recent tragedy in Orlando breaks my heart not only because dozens of young gay Latin people like me died but also because I literally could have been there. I live in Orlando. I’ve been to Pulse. If the series of events in my life would have lead me to be there that night, there’s the very real chance I wouldn’t be here right now. It’s devastating that people just like me with dreams and aspirations that wanted to be in a safe environment died simply because of who they were.

It’s devastating because for LGBT youth this puts into question what places can even be considered safe. I know this event grasps the core of my being with an undulating sense of fear and anxiety in how I carry about my life. However, I know that I can’t live that way. Letting go of my freedom and choosing to live in the shadows is not the legacy I want leave for the dozens of victims who unfortunately no longer have a voice.

I want to honor everyone who passed by making sure that I continue to live my life to the fullest and represent LGBT people of color in spaces and communities where we are often underrepresented. In my time working  at Walt Disney World I hope that I’ve been able deliver unique experiences to thousands of guests in an inclusive environment through leadership as a gay person of color. By welcoming guests from all around the world, I hope that they’ve left with a positive experience and the immense value that an inclusive environment can bring to their communities, organizations, schools, and work places.

Although this tragedy fills my heart with sorrow, I know that I have to continue the push for representation and the exposure that comes along with it, to help broaden the horizons of communities with minimal exposure to people like me. Nevertheless, to broaden the narrative, I hope that this serves us all in the diversity and inclusion space as a reminder as to why what we strive for is so important. There are thousands of minority youth who see the world of uncertainty that we live in and question how to navigate the space, especially when pockets of society are at times unforgiving. In all this uncertainty those of us that have been fortunate in life can hold strong and uplift others.

I know that I want to be a source of hope that gives strength to communities and changes the narrative. Regardless of how much I personally still have left to go, I know that in my relative position of power, I can’t take for granted the opportunity to stand up. The death in my community and the scary reality that I could have been one of the victims has been such an abrupt and jarring reminder that I have to speak up for those who no longer have a voice.

Ultimately, despite everything I retain optimism because I know all of us combined can change the narrative for minorities not only in society, but also in our institutions, schools, and organizations. Everyone one of you still has the chance to speak up for someone who doesn’t always have a voice, who is still alive with dreams and who you can help. Let none of us take for granted the gracious support networks and opportunity we have to make a difference.

This is dedicated to all the victims and family members affected by this tragedy. It’s my commitment that I will do my part to create a better future for LGBT youth of color and not leave it solely to chance.