As a first generation student, my path to college was definitely a journey. For as long as I can remember going to college was always my dream. I remember my dad telling me, “te pueden quitar todo lo que tienes pero nunca podrán quitarte tu título e inteligencia. Lo que aprendes nunca nadie te lo podrá quitar.” “They can take everything away from you but they will never be able to take away your degree. They will never be able to take away from you what you have learned.” These words stuck with me for the rest of my life.
My parents have been a huge motivation for college. They were not able to help me academically but their moral support was always there. I wanted to graduate college not just for me but also for them. They both are immigrants who came to this country with nothing but have given me everything possible in order to make my dreams a reality. With my own motivation and that from my parents, I graduated high school as Valedictorian.
I soon began to experience racism and discrimination from behalf of the students, professors, and staff. I soon learned that in order to survive Kalamazoo I had to fight. I had to fight for my voice to be heard in a predominately white institution. I had to work two times harder than my white classmates to prove to my professors that I was intelligent enough to be there. That I too could succeed.
My first two years of college the organization I was part of (M.E.Ch.A) fought for an Ethnic Studies program at Kalamazoo College. It was not until the fall quarter of my Junior year that the institution finally realized that the establishment of an Ethnic Studies program at Kalamazoo College was needed. The last two and half years of college we fought for an Intercultural Center.
During my senior year, we felt successful because we were able to get a temporary space that served as an Intercultural Center and were able to hire a Director for Intercultural Center who made students of color finally feel cared for. Graduating college was so emotional for me. It was this feeling where I could not believe that I had finally made. That obtaining a college degree was no longer a dream but my reality and my privilege.
Because of the experiences I faced in college, I wanted to move back to San Francisco and work with my community. I wanted to work with students going to college. I wanted to be able to use my experience to prepare students a little more; to be able to not only get to college, but survive college. Working at ASAP for the last year has been a true privilege because I have been able to form relationships with the students. They have opened the doors to me to their own college journey.
Note: ASAP at Mission High School (formerly Athletics Scholars Advancement Program) merged with Mission Graduates in July 2020. This article has been transferred to Mission Graduates’ website for archival purposes and reflects the work, vision, and stories of ASAP staff and students at the time of publication.