Having a corn tortilla wrapped with scrambled eggs and Mexican sausage (chorizo) perfectly protected by foil and a napkin from my Wella (grandmother) who walked me to our local bus stop for 3rd graders to face a reaction of "What is THAT!!??", to my 7th grade volleyball coach "What are you??" to my freshmen year in college "You people always have this problem when writing papers"; the opinion of my English Professor are only #3 of many situations I've endured during my educational experience in California. A state where you often hear "We didn't cross the border the border crossed us."
Fair-skinned, single language learner, Mexican/Puertorican Latina placed in a Latin paradigm where I felt I did not identify at times and yet in the same breathe was not accepted either. Feeling as if I was questioned of my authenticity? I had to ask myself "Who and what am I?" everyday of my life.
A Latin student forced into believing my culture and race is a subset to American history and culture when in fact my people were and are major contributors to the success of this great country we call America. I am still forced to mark "white" on forms yet does our white culture and partners see me as White? Will I reap the same benefits and power as whites? Do I even want to assimilate into this category? No. Never.
The feeling of being stuck in a paradox of struggle and success, yet knowing I am the first in my family to make it this far is why I continue to power on. If it wasn't for Mrs. Spears, Mrs. Maroun, Col. Thore at Galileo High School, or Paul Mendez, Rafael Martinez, and Dr. Flowers at San Francisco State who pushed me to be my best even when I didn't know how. Giving me the emotional support and even harsh reality check that I needed at times to understand how to navigate the structural and social challenges that I was facing being a Latina in our educational system.
My Tia (aunt), my mentor, and at times my rebel that pushed me to get more out of life and yet without judgment knew, I was not perfect and still cared for me unconditionally. We all make mistakes but what is important for this particular cohort of students is "Who is there to help us get back up?" Is there anyone there for us? Or are we forgotten and or pushed aside as we so often see and hear about?
If it wasn't for the many heroes in my life where would I be? Who would I be? What would I know? Not knowing they saved me. I wouldn't be working in Education giving back to my community in hopes of opening doors and the eyes of at risk students of color. If it wasn't for my experience of being what I call saved meaning taking the time to have a real conversation to help them see before making the mistakes we so often see of at risk students, which would have been me or was me? Only the "Thank You" emails, cards, and hugs can validate my work. Truly committing to the commitment.
Thank you to all the educators out there that take the time to have real conversations with their students. It is you that help support us to keep challenging our idea of defeat through a system that just doesn't understand our rhythm, our needs. And yes that conversation may not be warm and fuzzy at times. Know they hear you, I heard you and I hope one day they will get it as I got it and appreciated it. Continue to raise the bar not lower it, and students' will meet those expectations with your support.
To the students don't be average be great in everything you do. Students, it is important that you find a mentor, an advisor, someone you see as family that support your life successes not just academics. To know you did your best builds confidence even when you have set backs. No one can take away character and integrity. At least through your set backs you now know what you need to work on verse comparing your challenges to a false reality. Our ancestors did not fight, sacrifice, and endure the racial discrimination in our society for you to be uninvolved in your own success. Remember always "Si Se Puede", it takes you and your commitment to make it a reality. - "We shall overcome!"