I was the first in my family to attend university. My father was a migrant worker who joined the military to get out of poverty, and my mom was a teen mom who loved my dad for the almost fifty years they were together.
My father was a strong advocate for education as he saw it for what it was, a way to move up in the world. In elementary school, Satan was my first-grade teacher. She told my parents that I was “omitted” (a term we no longer use because it is offensive) because I struggled with reading. Unbeknownst to her, largely because she did not care, I had not attended kindergarten, so the skills my peers had, I had not been exposed to yet.
My father did not take kindly to what Satan had to say. From that day on, I had homework every day regardless of whether work had been assigned. In second grade, I had an angel for a teacher, Mrs. Pringle. My parents still have her picture in one of our many photo books. Through her, I learned to love to read. By the end of second grade, I had passed my peers in reading ability and was reading at the sixth-grade level.
This focus on studying and learning continued throughout high school. When I was told in high school that because I was Hispanic and female in a military town I would not graduate, I was astounded. Regardless of this counselor’s opinion, I still managed to graduate in the top 10% of my class. Largely because my parents expected my siblings and me to do well.
When I was accepted to The University of Texas at Austin and then, subsequently, realized that my family and I could not afford to attend. I resigned myself to following my father’s footsteps in joining the military. Until my mom received a call from a private, Christian university.
This call changed my entire family’s future.
As the first in my family to attend university, I did stumble in my undergraduate coursework. I changed majors and it took me five years to graduate. But I graduated. What my struggle did for my family is immeasurable. My parents learned the process of what was needed for my siblings to attend university.
To date, my three siblings and I have all earned advanced degrees. When I stopped my PhD coursework at the dissertation stage, my parents were appalled, but I no longer wanted to be a school administrator. They did not agree with my decision, but they recognized that education does not disappear because a degree was not completed.
Education for my family is about opportunity. My three siblings and I, the children of a migrant worker turned career military and a teen mom turned store manager, all have our master’s degrees. Statistically, at least one of us shouldn’t have earned a degree, but we learned early that education is what you make of it. What will you choose to do with your education? Opportunity is knocking.
College Coach and Educational Opportunist