Growing up poor, in a large urban city to teenage parents, whose primary language was Spanish, presented many challenges in my education. As my parents continued to master their English, they struggled with American culture, such as understanding what should have been their active role in my education and the importance of stability for their children. They likely did not realize the damaging effects it had to my learning as they moved from apartment to apartment, year after year.
I had to endure a highly transient lifestyle and attended seven different schools from Kindergarten through 8th grade. With a fragmented education, I entered high school lacking many critical schools in literacy and math. But, it was not until I attended a major public state university that I really understood the academic gaps that I possessed in comparison to my peers. I had to work particularly hard to not only comprehend the textbooks and lecture, but to catch myself up in basic skills of writing and comprehension. The culture shock I experienced was another layer of university life that I did not anticipate.
Though I attended seven different elementary schools, the racial demographics in each of those schools and my high school were mostly Latino. A sense of family and unspoken connection exists when one is surrounded by people that look like them. I did not awkwardly stand out like I did at my undergraduate university where I clearly represented the minority. This was difficult. Very difficult. I was secure in my abilities and my potential in life, and at a young age, I knew the importance of education, but it was still very challenging to go day-by-day in a world that I felt I did not belong with the additional dynamic of opportunity and academia gaps.
I constantly questioned whether I was working hard enough. I had a full course load, worked three jobs, maintained a 3.5 GPA throughout my undergraduate studies, and still felt nervous about what laid ahead -- a feeling, I would imagine all college kids go through regardless of racial or ethnic background, but one that I am confident is heightened when constantly disenfranchised.
Today, I have multiple degrees, three of them Masters and I am currently in my second year of study for my doctorate in Educational Leadership. I share my story for various reasons, but mainly due to the hope that another young child out there, possibly growing up poor, recognizing the substandard view from others due to their culture, but still having an unbeatable and deep sense of understanding that an education is the ticket to a quality of life is real. It can happen for that child. One can be successful! One can overcome all obstacles.
Some days will be extremely tougher than others and some days those accomplishments will glow, but giving up is not an option. It certainly won't lead to the light at the end of the tunnel. It should make one stronger. It should make one want to reflect on how to beat all the odds. It should foster one's thinking that current challenges have been designed to build upon one's strength, not tear one down. That one's long-term goal can be fulfilled.