08/10/2011 10:25 pm ET | Updated Oct 10, 2011

Latino Student Voices On College, Culture And Identity

Although an Associated Press-Univision poll last year reported that 87 percent of Hispanics value higher education, Hispanic students comprise 12.7 percent of America's college graduates, according to the 2009 American Community Survey. Twenty-two percent of Hispanics have attended some college.

Many factors contribute to the gap between value and attainment, the AP reports -- money, familial duties, lack of support. And the challenges can continue once Latino students arrive at college. Finding a niche, and a cultural identity, can be difficult for Hispanics, as many college campuses don't reflect the diversity of America. As student Esteban L. Hernandez writes of his first day at the University of Colorado: "That first class was all adrenaline. I sat bewildered. I think I looked around the giant room more often than I did at the speaking professor. My eyes were probing for a familiar hue; I felt like the only brown face in a colossal room teeming with eager freshmen."

Below, read eight Hispanic students' stories of exploration and achievement at college. Do you have a story to share? Post it in the comments section.