This is my story

It was very difficult for me to adapt to the new environment and the new language when I came to New York in November of 1999 from El Salvador. Even though my parents did not have the opportunity to study, to learn, to read, or to write, they felt that by giving me an education would benefit me in many different ways. Their dream was for me to have a better life than their own. Both my mom and my step-father come from different backgrounds; and in their own way each has supported me in accomplishing my dreams.

I graduated from Long Island City High School in June 2006. During my high school years I faced many obstacles and one of them was my parents’ economic status. My step-father was disabled due to an accident he suffered years ago. My mother did not have a stable job. Her only means of income would be the few times she was called to clean houses. I remember receiving $5 for each week and wearing clothes that people used to give us. These difficulties did not discourage me, quite the opposite in fact; instead, they encouraged me to study and work hard. I was also armed with the knowledge that my older brother had previously dropped out of high school, never earning his diploma, struggling with the career ramifications of that fateful decision. I never wanted to struggle that way, in my mind, earning my high school diploma was the only way I could acquire a decent job in the future.

After my high school graduation, I felt I was responsible for my own education. My parents could not support me financially by paying for my college tuition. Although I had a strong academic performance history, my immigration status prevented me from applying for scholarships (most of them required me to be a permanent resident or a citizen from the United States). My parent’s fear of sharing their legal documents made them uneasy about sharing the personal information necessary to apply for federal financial aid. My only choice was to find a job in order to be able to pay for my own education.

After unsuccessfully seeking my parents’ support and not receiving any assistance from them, I felt forced to leave my house at the end of June 2006 and began working as a City Lifeguard during the summer and as a nanny during the school year. It was really tough managing work and college at the same time. I remember that I worked as a nanny from 6am to 8:30am, attended New York City College of Technology (City Tech) from 9:30am to 2pm, and started working as a nanny again from 3:00pm to 9:00pm Monday thru Friday. The weekend schedule was a little different; however, I still had to work them, too. I had very little free time during this period. I could barely find time to complete my school work, and there was little left over for visiting my parents or socializing with friends.

I could not handle the nanny job and maintain good grades at City Tech. Thus, after two years, I moved back to Queens and transferred to York College in May 2008. I paid my own rent and the college tuition from my own pocket. The lifeguard job during the summer and the many part time jobs during the academic year, as a Spanish tutor, for example, helped me pay tuition, rent, and other personal expenses. My parents’ financial situation did not changed, so it remains that the only thing they can offer me was a heartfelt, “Muy bien, sigue para adelante, que llegarás muy lejos” (Very good, keep moving forward and you will accomplish your dreams).

My parents are not familiar with any formal educational system. Most of the time, I wished I could have received the type of support I needed besides their kind words. I know they did and have done everything within their power to support me and see me happy. However, I often felt alone in my efforts and pursuits. Life is not easy. Yet, I am proud of who I have become and of the many goals I have accomplished despite the difficult circumstances I have faced. I am thankful to God for putting the people in my path, who have helped me reach my goals.

Initially I wanted to graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Computer Information Systems from City Tech. However, after my second year, my heart told me a Bachelor’s of Arts in Spanish with a Teacher Education Grades 7-12 program was more my passion and the path to success. I wanted to be taught by great professors and by models of exceptional teaching methods. I found the professors at York College to be this way, which is why I did not hesitate to transfer from City Tech.

To attend York College as a full time student and to maintain a GPA above 3.5 was not easy. Yet, due to the enthusiasm I had to be the first person in my family to attend and graduate from college, I pushed myself hard to meet this dream as well as to give back to my community.

I did a lot of community service inside and outside of York College, and the experience I received from doing it was priceless. I have learned that by extending a hand to those in need boosts their self-confidence and self-worth, which are traits that money cannot buy. From doing community service as part of my Honor Societies with for profit and not-for-profit companies, I learned to build up on my professional, leadership, and social skills. I would not be the leader that I am today if I did not participate in community service. Therefore I continue to participate in community service as a selfless volunteer.

I believed that as a college student I could positively influence and motivate high school and college students that are still wondering around whether or not to pursue a higher education degree. My professionalism, my high GPA, my accomplishments and my media exposure were signs of an efficient college student and a role model to follow. Moreover, the excellence through diversity of knowledge, culture, and communication I gained and practiced in college, enabled me in contributing a lot to my community as a middle school Spanish teacher.

At the time, I really looked forward to graduating with honors from York College in June 2012. For that reason, I worked my behind off. However, due to a little point, I did not. My average was 3.49 and I needed at least 3.50 in order to have honor letters in my degree. I was disappointed but life is like that, things do not round off.

I believe that education empowers people. So, after graduating from York College, I planned to pursue a Master’s of Science Degree in Publishing: Digital and Print Media at New York University. I thought that by pursuing this Master's degree program, it would empower me with the tools necessary to further the completion of my professional and personal goals. In the beginning it did but later it became a conflict with my job as a teacher. I was in two different fields: education vs. business. Although I love both fields, at the time I needed to make a career decision. After a long consideration, I decided to stick with education and I ended up transferring to an online Master's Degree in Education at Westerns Governors University. In February of 2017 I was holding my Master's Degree. Believing that education empowers people, I continued studying by taking different independent courses to further my career.

I have to confess that behind my success there is a huge list of people that have mentored, guided, and counseled me. With the help of those people I have been able to grow as a professional and as a leader. And for that, I am forever grateful. All I can do now is pay it forward.

Currently, I continue to teach middle school at The Scholars' Academy since 2012. I also restarted my writing career and keep learning about technology.

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