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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I'd Rather Be Single Than Settle – Here Is Why Being Picky Is Okay

They're on their best behavior when you're dating.
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Dating nowadays described in one word: annoying.

What's even more annoying? when people tell you that you're being too "picky" when it comes to dating. Yes, from an outside perspective sometimes that's exactly what it looks like; however, when looking at it from my perspective it all makes sense.

I've heard it all:

"He was cute, why didn't you like him?"

"You didn't even give him a chance!"

"You pay too much attention to the little things!"

What people don't understand is that it's OKAY to be picky when it comes to guys. For some reason, girls in college freak out and think they're supposed to have a boyfriend by now, be engaged by the time they graduate, etc. It's all a little ridiculous.

However, I refuse to put myself on a time table such as this due to the fact that these girls who feel this way are left with no choice but to overlook the things in guys that they shouldn't be overlooking, they're settling and this is something that I refuse to do.

So this leaves the big question: What am I waiting for?

Well, I'm waiting for a guy who...

1. Wants to know my friends.

Blessed doesn't even begin to describe how lucky I am to have the friends that I do.

I want a guy who can hang out with my friends. If a guy makes an effort to impress your friends then that says a lot about him and how he feels about you. This not only shows that he cares about you but he cares about the people in your life as well.

Someone should be happy to see you happy and your friends contribute to that happiness, therefore, they should be nothing more than supportive and caring towards you and your friendships.

2. Actually, cares to get to know me.

Although this is a very broad statement, this is the most important one. A guy should want to know all about you. He should want to know your favorite movie, favorite ice cream flavor, favorite Netflix series, etc. Often, (the guys I get stuck on dates with) love to talk about themselves: they would rather tell you about what workout they did yesterday, what their job is, and what they like to do rather than get to know you.

This is something easy to spot on the first date, so although they may be "cute," you should probably drop them if you leave your date and can recite everything about their life since the day they were born, yet they didn't catch what your last name was.

3. How they talk about other women.

It does not matter who they're talking about, if they call their ex-girlfriend crazy we all know she probably isn't and if she is it's probably their fault.

If they talk bad about their mom, let's be honest, if they're disrespecting their mother they're not going to respect you either. If they mention a girl's physical appearances when describing them. For example, "yeah, I think our waitress is that blonde chick with the big boobs"

Well if that doesn't hint they're a complete f* boy then I don't know what else to tell you. And most importantly calling other women "bitches" that's just disrespectful.

Needless to say, if his conversations are similar to ones you'd hear in a frat house, ditch him.

4. Phone etiquette.

If he can't put his phone down long enough to take you to dinner then he doesn't deserve for you to be sitting across from him.

If a guy is serious about you he's going to give you his undivided attention and he's going to do whatever it takes to impress you and checking Snapchat on a date is not impressive. Also, notice if his phone is facedown, then there's most likely a reason for it.

He doesn't trust who or what could pop up on there and he clearly doesn't want you seeing. Although I'm not particularly interested in what's popping up on their phones, putting them face down says more about the guy than you think it does.

To reiterate, it's okay to be picky ladies, you're young, there's no rush.

Remember these tips next time you're on a date or seeing someone, and keep in mind: they're on their best behavior when you're dating. Then ask yourself, what will they be like when they're comfortable? Years down the road? Is this what I really want? If you ask yourself these questions you might be down the same road I have stumbled upon, being too picky.. and that's better than settling.

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Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?

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This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

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