Sofia Hidalgo’s family legacy inspires Obama-Chesky scholarship win

Sofia Hidalgo stands out in the crowd during a protest in Washington D.C. | Photo courtesy of Sofia Hidalgo.

Priscilla Pozo | Assistant Entertainment Director

From passion to profit, there are many different reasons we push ourselves towards success.

For Public Relations, Advertising and Applied Communications junior Sofia Hidalgo, maintaining her family’s legacy is one of the factors pushing her to the top.

Her commitment to her family’s heritage inspires all her work, from her former role as a City Year AmeriCorps student success coach to making the decision to study PRAAC at FIU.

Originally hailing from Maryland, Hidalgo’s heritage and childhood proximity to Washington D.C. have played a large role in shaping her life and career goals. 

However, it was the decision to move to Miami that was really the catalyst for her career. 

“I didn’t see a path forward for myself in D.C. besides politics and I wanted to change that up,” said Hidalgo on why she chose FIU.

“The best possible option was to go to FIU. It just allowed me so much flexibility. I really don’t think I could’ve done anything that I did, or been able to be there for my grandfather or have continued my work with Miami Freedom Project, if I wasn’t going to FIU specifically,” said Hidalgo.

Hidalgo hails from a family of immigrants. Her grandparents immigrated to the United States, eventually settled in Miami and, without knowing any English, received degrees from Barry University, all while working full time and raising their children. 

Hidalgo highlights that her childhood was surrounded by a lot of political involvement and awareness. 

With a majority of her family members working within the government sector, she naturally gravitated towards work within non-profit and social advocacy organizations. 

Hidalgo helping to put up a sign for the Miami Freedom Project during a climate event in Overtown | Photo courtesy of Sofia Hidalgo

“My family comes from a long line of people who have worked in government or for business within the government sector.. they all went the government route in some way,” Hidalgo explained.

“And so that was always tied to my upbringing; public service and non-profit organizations, and paying attention to what’s going on in the news and in the government.”

Her uncle, Patrick Hidalgo, co-founded the Miami Freedom Project, a community-driven organization supporting outreach, advocacy and education initiatives for the next generation of leaders in Miami.

When her uncle unexpectedly passed away in March of 2020, she knew she had to find a way to keep his dream alive.

Hidalgo joined the Miami Freedom Project team as the Digital Director.  

As Digital Director for the Miami Freedom Project, Hidalgo oversees all social media and online Internet presence of the organization. 

In this way, she combined her love for public relations and marketing, her dedication to her family heritage, and her interest in social advocacy. 

Hidalgo herself already runs a popular TikTok account centering around her life as a student at FIU. 

With a following of nearly 17,000, she’s proven that she’s more than capable of building a social media following from the ground up.

“I’ve always been an artist. I’m always thinking about how art can convince people. So, I just started thinking a lot about social media, marketing campaigns and advertisements,” Hidalgo said. 

“All these things are used for business, but how can they be used to change people’s ideas about climate change or about immigration?” she said. “This developed my interest in finding the combination between social media, digital spaces, advertising, marketing, and public opinion on issues.”

Hidalgo demonstrating in Miami | Photo courtesy of Sofia Hidalgo

It was this interest that inspired Hidalgo to apply for the The Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service.

The scholarship, created by the Obama family in partnership with Brian Chesky, the founder of Airbnb, seeks to recognize college juniors who particularly stand out in their commitment to creating radical change on a global scale.

The recipient of this scholarship not only receives financial aid, but also a stipend to create and pursue a summer work-travel experience called the Summer Voyage, a 10-year travel stipend, a Fall Summit, and a full network of leaders to connect with. 

When applying to the scholarship, Hidalgo knew she had some leverage: amongst a sea of applicants who all likely majored in political science or history, Hidalgo stood out as a PRAAC major.

“You would think I’m going to business school, but my hopes are to incorporate public service. I want to understand how we use AI, tech, social media, and all these tools to advance work in the United States and I don’t think there are a lot of people focused on that intersection because it’s so new,” said Hidalgo.

“The idea that social media can completely alter a cause is a new and emerging field. That’s what I was trying to get across in my application and I think that helped me stand out.”

But, this was not enough. She also needed an extremely unique concept to propose for her Summer Voyage.

She drew inspiration from an FIU Honors study abroad summer trip to Colombia with Professor Niurca Marquez and from her family’s own Cuban heritage to propose the establishment of a tech hub in the Latin American Caribbean.

“The Summer Voyage is the heart of this scholarship. The idea I had when I applied was to create a tech hub in the Latin American Caribbean that would provide all… equipment and all the training necessary to be able to teach people AI software, Adobe, social media, web design, web development, UX/UI, and anything digital,” she said. 

“Then they could go out and work for the businesses in their communities and build up… all the digital work of all the small businesses in the area, especially if they live in a tourist-industry-heavy location.” 

While Hidalgo admits that this idea may be biting off a bit more than she can chew, she is passionate about her cause.

“Building up this tech infrastructure is huge for local economic development and the upward mobility of these families, that they can be able to have U.S. clients and also work for the small businesses in their local community,” said Hidalgo. 

Sofia Hidalgo, Recepient of the 2023 Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service | Photo courtesy of Sofia Hidalgo

“All of this comes back to family and supporting local small businesses.”

Aiming for a career in social advocacy campaign creation, Hidalgo says that this scholarship award could help her develop the Summer Voyage idea into a full-fledged, long-term project. 

If not, she hopes to work on campaigns that find the intersection between social causes and advertising.

But, at the heart of all of her success, is her love for her family. 

“If you were to give me a scorecard of things to rank in importance, family would be number one. I want to live up to their legacy and continue the work they started. That is very much always at the root of what I do – trying to make my family proud.” 

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