Understanding That I Am Poor And Privileged

Understanding That I Am Poor And Privileged

My Journey to becoming a Gates Millennium and POSSE Boston Scholar
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“I think with challenges, you either overcome them or you fall behind and become a statistic.” -Martin Klebba

As a Latino growing up in a poor family with parents who had not graduated from college, the odds were already stacked up against me. I was disadvantaged because I lacked the college influence from my parents, and they couldn’t pay for my college tuition even if they wanted to. There would be no shortcuts in my journey to success, so I had to be determined from day one and remain so throughout my four years of high school. I wouldn’t settle for any grade less than a B, I would go back and find the right answers when I got a question on a test wrong, and I would never allow myself to choose my social life over homework. It was a decision that was very hard at times, but I knew that I had goals I wanted to achieve. I needed to be able to prove that Latinos can make it, that we can make something better of ourselves by pursuing higher education, and that nobody could stop us from doing so. My mother, so warm-hearted and sincere, always reminded me of how smart I was and to not let negative people bring me down, to prove that I wasn’t just another statistic. Hearing these words come from the mother who also played the father figure in my life was what kept me focused. I wasn’t only doing well in school and aiming for college just for myself, but I was doing it for my family, my sister who looks up to me, my brother who helped me realize the importance of education, and my mother who told me she wanted me to attend college and make something better of myself. I couldn’t fail my sister and tell her that dreams for poor Latinos are unattainable. I couldn’t fail my mentors who guided me through times of immense struggle, the teachers who have always believed in my potential, and the people who told me that not being white doesn’t mean the world is not mine to explore. I needed to prove that all of these lectures and positive feedback were worth it. I knew that I had too many people counting on me to just throw in the towel, so I focused all of my energy on proving the stereotypes wrong.

After a grueling and agonizing three round interview process, I finally got the phone call on the night of December 15, notifying me that I would receive the POSSE Boston full-tuition leadership scholarship and would be attending Hamilton College in the fall of 2016. There was nothing that could prepare me for that moment, the moment that I officially became a first-generation college student. I remember feeling nothing but anxiety as I picked up the call that night, hearing loud cheers and the phrase, "Congratulations, you are a POSSE scholar for Hamilton College!"

Four months later, I received another call. Except this time, it was from my grandmother telling me about the Gates Millennium Scholarship. This leadership scholarship would help cover any cost of attendance so that I wouldn’t have any financial barriers inhibiting my success at Hamilton. An application with eight essays, each a thousand words, which asked everything about me and left no shortcuts. There were so many insecurities that I had to combat while having to share my struggles with someone who has never met me before and finding the courage to do so: acknowledging that I am poor, and that I needed this scholarship because it would make my dreams of going to college debt-free come true. I was so driven that I would stay after school for hours every day working on these essays, perfecting them so that my audience could completely understand my upbringing. Having to share the fact that I was removed from my home at the age of fifteen. Admitting that I suffered from anxiety and depression. There were times when I got lost in these essays, wondering what I would be had it not been for the support of my family and friends. Aside from these internal struggles to open up to people, I was being bombarded by deaths in the family, financial problems, balancing two jobs, and trying to stay dedicated to my extracurricular activities. When the world seemed as if it was out to get me, I stayed focused on my end goal. I wrote those essays, which was the best decision I ever made because now I can say that I’m going to college for free!

In those moments, all I could think about was the day my Abuela told me “no te preocupes, tu vas a recibir la beca!.” With the guidance of people like my grandmother as well as the time spent reflecting on what I wanted to obtain in life, I have set myself on a path to success in college, all because I decided to set goals for myself that were attainable if I wanted them to be. Although the world is a divided place in which some lack the same opportunities as others, I can say that my perseverance sets me apart from the privileged kids who lack the hardship to be strong and diligent leaders in society. I am one to separate myself because I never let anyone tell me I wasn’t good enough. Instead, I tried everything I could to prove them wrong and to show other Latino students that they are more intelligent than what they are set out to be. Like a good friend of mine once said, “You can’t allow your setbacks to cause you to sit back”. Every single achievement has come with its obstacles, and I learned how to combat them because of my struggles growing up poor, learning how to take advantage of every opportunity and embracing each challenge with dignity and perseverance. Poverty has made me privileged in a sense, and I don’t think I would’ve rather had it any other way.

Moral of the story:

You are privileged if you find the strength within yourself to persevere even when the obstacles are against you. You are privileged if you can say that your leadership skills will enable you to get scholarships and graduate with an undergraduate degree debt free. You are privileged if you are able to accept advice from others, and use that advice to grow and become a better person. But most importantly, you're privileged if you can say that you earned the money you have instead of inheriting it.

Cover Image Credit: Luis Morales

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.
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Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.


7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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Why The Idea Of 'No Politics At The Dinner Table' Takes Place And Why We Should Avoid It

When did having a dialogue become so rare?

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Why has the art of civilized debate and conversation become unheard of in daily life? Why is it considered impolite to talk politics with coworkers and friends? Expressing ideas and discussing different opinions should not be looked down upon.

I have a few ideas as to why this is our current societal norm.

1. Politics is personal.

Your politics can reveal a lot about who you are. Expressing these (sometimes controversial) opinions may put you in a vulnerable position. It is possible for people to draw unfair conclusions from one viewpoint you hold. This fosters a fear of judgment when it comes to our political beliefs.

Regardless of where you lie on the spectrum of political belief, there is a world of assumption that goes along with any opinion. People have a growing concern that others won't hear them out based on one belief.

As if a single opinion could tell you all that you should know about someone. Do your political opinions reflect who you are as a person? Does it reflect your hobbies? Your past?

The question becomes "are your politics indicative enough of who you are as a person to warrant a complete judgment?"

Personally, I do not think you would even scratch the surface of who I am just from knowing my political identification.

2. People are impolite.

The politics themselves are not impolite. But many people who wield passionate, political opinion act impolite and rude when it comes to those who disagree.

The avoidance of this topic among friends, family, acquaintances and just in general, is out of a desire to 'keep the peace'. Many people have friends who disagree with them and even family who disagree with them. We justify our silence out of a desire to avoid unpleasant situations.

I will offer this: It might even be better to argue with the ones you love and care about, because they already know who you are aside from your politics, and they love you unconditionally (or at least I would hope).

We should be having these unpleasant conversations. And you know what? They don't even need to be unpleasant! Shouldn't we be capable of debating in a civilized manner? Can't we find common ground?

I attribute the loss of political conversation in daily life to these factors. 'Keeping the peace' isn't an excuse. We should be discussing our opinions constantly and we should be discussing them with those who think differently.

Instead of discouraging political conversation, we should be encouraging kindness and understanding. That's how we will avoid the unpleasantness that these conversations sometimes bring.

By avoiding them altogether, we are doing our youth a disservice because they are not being exposed to government, law, and politics, and they are not learning to deal with people and ideas that they don't agree with.

Next Thanksgiving, talk politics at the table.

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