The Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute Blog
Blog by Lorena Solis (Becari@ 2016)
When I was born, I did not have a choice
I did not choose to be born in America
Con raices Mexicanas
Pero, 24 years later, I have choices
I wanted to be Mexican
I wanted to be American
I wanted both
I wanted to be humilde como the welcoming homes in
Mexico Modest, como mi madre
And respetosa as I was raised to be en mi casa
But America, too big, too strong brought me up
I needed to have pride, like the founding Fathers
And fight for success at any cost
I needed to be bold and strong just like that symbol
I wanted both
I wanted tiempo con mis sobrinos, escuchar las palabras
“tia te quiero”
I wanted time con las primas, y laugh about boys en el pueblo
I wanted to be part of the family’s memories, en bautizos,
Maybe host fiestas for mi familia one day
But, I wanted more time for me too, have a career, and lose myself in passion
America taught me how to love my solitude, appreciate my individuality
Fight for my independence
After all, America is the land of the free…. Right?
And still, en Mexico aprendi como valora la familia
Luchar por la raza
I learned about love
I wanted both
Now, 24 years later, I have a choice of who I want to be
I choose both
Blog by Carmen Santos (Becari@ 2016)
My name is Carmen Santos. I was born in Mexico and moved to the United States, Queens, New York, when I was seventeen and have been living in this county for the past nine years. The biggest challenge that I faced when I arrived in New York, was the language barrier. However, after a few years of hard work and dedication I have learned the language, graduated from High School with a high average and decided to continue with a college education and obtain my degree. I am currently attending York College, majoring in Psychology with a minor in Health Education and hopefully by this summer I will be graduating. My hard work and dedication, helped me to achieve a high GPA and earned me a place on the Dean’s List 2016- 2017. My career goal/plan, is to finish my bachelor's degree and then pursue a master's degree in counseling or a Doctorate in Physical Therapy. I’m a hardworking and dedicated person who cares about my family and the community. I will be the first person in my family graduating from college. This motivates me to continue with my education and demonstrate to my siblings and cousins, that anything is possible when you set your goals and go for them. I was able to volunteer with a nonprofit organization, Make the Road New York, where I learned about the needs of the Hispanic Community. At Make the Road New York I was given the opportunity to learn about the different services provided to the entire community. I worked with The Adult Literacy Department, which offers general English classes and GED courses. The CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies helped me get one step closer to where I want to be and to pursue and achieve my goals. Thanks to the CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies, I’m graduating this summer from York College with a bachelor’s degree. I have learned so much from my participation in The CUNY Institute of Mexican Studies. Being surrounded by my fellow Becari@s was a great experience, with all the positive energy and support. I am very grateful that I was given the opportunity to be a Becari@ of 2016.
Blog by Julia Ramirez (John Jay College, 2015, 2016 Becari@)
¿A que horas pasa mi tren? Are lady lawyers allowed to wear jeans to work with a button up shirt and oxford shoes? Or is that just a man lawyer thing? Am I allowed to want a career over having kids? Am I allowed to have kids but not a husband and not be ashamed? The Raise the Age Campaign, why aren’t more people talking about it? Machismo in Latino Culture is too real; my mom just cured my brother’s cruda but ignored mine of last week. Why are there so many white womyn in social work programs? Why are there so many white folks in all post graduate programs? Nos faltan 43, have people forgotten them? The campaign to Shut down Rikers is a major success, I still can’t believe it is being shut down. Why do we have to rename solitary confinement to “enhanced supervision housing?” Does renaming it make society feel better about confinement issues? How often does catcalling actually work for men? Can a womyn catcall? Should I run or just accept the fact that I just missed my train? I’ll save NYC tourists the spectacle of seeing me run in heels and slowly walk to track 23. Everyone wave goodbye to Julia’s train.
I am amazed at how freely and fluidly my mind wanders every day. I am amazed that it took me 21 years to be able to think so freely and accept my thoughts and questions as they come. I am disappointed that it took 21 years for me to question my own culture on issues of machismo and violence against womyn. At the same time, I am overall thankful to those who allowed me the safe space to question these issues and encouraged my radical thinking and ridiculous questions. I am proud that my culture and community lead me to these safe spaces and especially thankful to the people who supported my growth and inspired me to stay woke.
I think it’s fair to say that this scholarship (CUNY Becas Scholarship) lead me to these safe spaces and woke heroes. I think it’s fair to say that this scholarship and those it has lead me to are getting me through this overwhelming week. My senior honors capstone project is due next week and today my poster presentation is due. I have a literature review due at 8pm and a phone conference at 8:15pm. I have to hand in my bulletin at work in a couple of hours and call my students. I am ready to give up, but I know I can’t. There are too many people who would die for the opportunity to obtain this higher education no matter how overwhelming, overly patriarchal, and white it is. There are too many people who wish to be in my position, who look like me, who have similar stories like me, who are as deserving and needing of this degree and knowledge like me. There are too many people who because of their circumstances, circumstances like the lack of money or the lack of legal permanent residency, are not on the same boat as me. I am here for them. I am here to show the rest of the world that we belong in these settings and deserve to be here just like everyone else. The pressure to be here for them, for my family, and all my ancestors, is sometimes so strong and powerful it pushes me to explore new topics, sensitive and dangerous topics. It pushes me to raise my voice in spaces I am not allowed to be in, it empowers me every day. This pressure however, is also very easy to succumb to. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by it to feel that all and any of your actions affect tu gente can be overbearing and not so easy to embrace. Finding a balance between these pressures is something we rarely talk about, but always feel.
My fellow becarixs and the community they have allowed me to be part of have allowed me to explore this balance and, in weeks like today, fully embrace this pressure. I am not your ideal first-generation student. I am not perfect nor do I aspire to be. I have made many mistakes. My transcript is not impeccable and sometimes I am too loud and chismosa, but I am growing and am now accepting of this part of myself. I am here to demonstrate to all these institutions that despite all of this, todavia brillo. Todavia valgo la pena, todavia puedo hacer un cambio en este mundo. I am here because it is this pressure and this journey to acceptance of me and my culture that makes me and all those like me more than deserving of everything this country has to offer.
It is okay to challenge your own culture, your family’s beliefs and values, it is okay to demand your voice be heard when you have something to say, and it is okay to feel overwhelmed. I wish more people said this to me as I was growing up in a house that ate salsa de chille guajillo y tortillas and a school that taught only United States history. I wish someone had given me the space to cry over things like word count, blackboard malfunctions, Y tu novio questions, cuando te vas a casar questions, and so many other aspects that make us as becarixs so unique. I am thankful to have found many shoulders to cry to about these issues through this scholarship and will forever be inspired by those who embrace this pressure y brillan in everything they do. I can only hope we provide these spaces to more of us and keep empowering ourselves. I can only hope my brillo will shine through this week in my capstone and every other project I am working on. Shine on, tu puedes.
Blog by Mariana Osorio (Brooklyn Collge, 2015,2016 Becari@)
What does it mean to transcend? I have always been fascinated by the meaning of this word, perhaps precisely because most people today don’t seem to understand the depth of it. To transcend is an act of love, of including and respecting the integrity of something or somebody while at the same time enriching it by contributing something new. It is the sum of two wholes to form a new one that has qualities and capabilities that none of its parts could have on its own. To transcend is to me, our mission as human beings during our life. Beyond the shallowness that invades our modern lives and the worries that seem to constantly occupy our hours and our minds, beyond our constant quest for happiness outside of ourselves, to transcend as humans - meaning to become something more than just caring for ourselves all the time - is the key for our self-realization and true happiness. So, how do we do it? If this is the one thing that could indeed bring sense and peace to our hectic lives, how do we get started? There are as many ways to go about it as there are people in the world, but I am here to tell you about my own experience. In 2015 I became a Becaria of the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute, and looking backwards I know it has been a beautiful and transcending experience. By joining the Becarios, I went from being an individual to being part of a family, from doing things just for myself, to having the opportunity to care for others and experience the joy of helping and knowing that I am capable of making a positive difference in the lives of others. I grew and learnt in a way that is difficult to put in words. I once read that there are two basic movements when it comes to self-development, transition and transformation. The first one is horizontal in nature. As an analogy, imagine that you live in a house with several stories. A transition movement would be equivalent to moving from one room to another in the same floor. We do this all the time in our lives, circumstances change and we adapt, but these everyday changes do not really affect who we are. The second one is a vertical leap. A transformation would be equivalent to moving from the first floor to the attic of the house. Our whole perspective changes, we see things from above, with more depth and reach. Most importantly, it becomes impossible to keep interpreting the world by our old standards. The beautiful aspect of going through a transformation of our consciousness is that the very first thing we want to do after experiencing it, is to share it! We feel a human responsibility to help and encourage others to look deep inside them and take the leap. My experience as a Becaria has been a transformational one. I think and care for all of us instead of just me. I am happily involved in helping the Mexican community thanks to the opportunity of working at the Mexican Embassy. I know I have touched and changed lives that I never imagined, and the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that followed can only be described as deep happiness. I invite you to learn more about the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute and join us! There is much more waiting for you here than you can imagine.
Blog by Edgar Morales (Lehman College, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 Becari@)
When human beings experience trauma or severe life stressors, it is not uncommon for their lives to unravel. However, those same traumatic experiences can be seen as a powerful propeller to move forward instead of moving backwards or remain inside of a shell. Approximately 6 years ago I was sitting under some shrubberies on a hill surrounded by the darkness of Nogales Sonora, hiding from the border patrol along with my uncle David and other immigrants heading north in search of the American Dream. After several failed attempts, our two-day journey became a seven-day journey of suffering; we faced cold winds, sweltering heat, hunger, thirst, and had some near-death experiences. Migrating to the United States in 2010 was one of the most difficult obstacles I had to overcome. I migrated in order to get a career, and not to be a dishwasher or a delivery boy. Upon my arrival, I enrolled in high school and was placed in the same grade as the one I had already completed in Puebla, Mexico. I was not happy but after what I had lived and suffered while crossing la garita (toll booth) at the Nogales Sonora port of entry, the place where immigrants like myself crossed the border crawling on rough stones with our bleeding knees and hands, I accepted the opportunity.
I was determined to complete High School and attend College. I wanted to prove that Mexicans are not only good for physical labor but are also intellectually capable of attaining higher education degrees. Unlike some undocumented youth of my age, I knew from the beginning that I was undocumented and the possibilities of going to college would be almost null. However, this was no reason for me to give up on my studies and abandon my ambition to attend College.
Three years passed after I enrolled to high school and I was in my senior year, the year that I was supposed to enroll to College. I was starting to feel as if this was where my educational path was going to end; all my efforts in school while working part-time in construction seemed to be worthless after all. Just like the Spanish saying “como caido del cielo,” I found out about the CUNY-Becas scholarship program and I immediately started my application process. I had only a few days left before the deadline. When I sent my application, I received a notification that all my documents had been received and that I would be notify about anything regarding my application. The waiting seemed suffocating, checking my email every single day until I was finally notified that I had been chosen to be a Becari@.
It has been almost four years since that day. It has been four consecutive years that I have been chosen as a Becari@ which is a powerful proof to the saying that “hope is the last to die”. As of right now, I’m about to start with my last semester to obtain my Bachelor’s degree in computer science, a career feared by many and conquered by few. My name is Edgar Morales and I won’t let my traumas take over me, on the contrary, I’ll use them to go beyond and make my way for something better.
Two Nations In My Heart" by Jessenia Guapisaca (Borough of Manhattan Community College, 2016 Becaria)
What for some, a social security, serves as identification, to me is a reminder that I’m not viewed as an individual who belongs in this country. I moved here thinking I’ll expand my horizons. Yet in reality, because I wasn’t born here, I’m deprived of privileges of this nation.
I am from the mountains and the beaches, I am from a place where people’s drop of sweat is worth a meal for the day, I am the faces of the homeless and the little kid’s in what it used to be my neighborhood, I am from the streets of different cities in Ecuador. Yet, in the other side of the border, I am the girl who walks in the street like everyone else, who takes the train to go to school, programs, internships or work like everyone else, who finishes her day by sharing a smile with her family pretty much like everyone else. I am from Ecuador but I also belong here where society is constantly telling me to go back. Yet, I can proudly and loudly say I have two nations in my heart despite of everything.
I grew up without my parents for fourteen years, I knew we were meant to be separated, each of us making sacrifices but our bond was the major one. Not having an answer when kids in elementary and middle school would ask me why my mom or dad will never come to School to pick me up. However, I learn to hold back my tears so I did not add another worry on my parent’s shoulders when they used to call every week. Our separation was a constant reminder to do well in school, because knowing I was able to draw a smile in their faces after a long day of work when they called and I used to tell them about my achievements in school. On the other hand, during my first years of childhood I lived with my grandmother. I clearly understood my performance at school had to honor every wrinkle of her front head. These experiences had taught me one thing which has become my motive to wake up every day, give back to those who are doing sacrifices for me and those who have hope in me to change things in society.
When I was 14 I didn’t understand that the way I came to the United States would label and exclude me permanently. In addition to that the SAT was an exponentially difficult exam for me due to my basic English understanding back then, thus I obtained a low score. Considering the importance of this aspect, it limited the options of schools I was hoping to attend. With a narrowed list of colleges, a huge barrier was money. Without financial aid, my attendance to college depended on my own hard work.
My High School was new to the system and it did not have help for students in terms of SAT Prep or AP Classes, adding to my “limited” English struggle if I wanted a good score I needed to find my own resources. Although I finished two practice SAT books I failed at showing colleges I deeply wanted to become part of their institution. Thanks to the CUNY Becas, I believe there are people out there who are willing to help me regardless of my nationality, socio-economic class or immigration status, they opened their arms to me as source of shelter from the exclusionary society we live in. They believe in my dreams, aspirations, and sparked my hopes again. It changed me as a person, and I will always be grateful for giving me this opportunity. I am currently attending Borough of Manhattan Community College, giving it all because at the end of the day being from somewhere else few people expect us to improve ourselves, in all possible aspects, is a blessing. My motive to prove people wrong by giving back to those who helped me along the way and those who are behind me; family, friends and an entire country.
"Poverty Brings Knowledge and Social Awareness" by Gabriela Ceja Morales (The Murphy Institute, 2016 Becaria)
I was born in Mexico City, raised by two loving and committed humans who started working at a very young age. My mother dropped out of school at 9 in order to work and support her family, my father's first job was at a factory in which he was exploited as a teenager. Nevertheless, poverty brings knowledge and social awareness; limitations spark creativity and new ways of problem solving or at least that's what I learned from them, and what I have so far pursued.
I grew up aware of the way in which labor shaped our lives, and how people like my family suffered from the great class divisions and uneven distribution of wealth, power and education resources, just to name a few.
I found that I wanted to take labor seriously and I started a project about workers’ narratives and life-paths in order to raise awareness and amplify the lives, faces and voices of low wage workers who plant the food we eat, build the houses we live in, clean the spaces we use, make the clothes we wear. Indigenous immigrants from rural places that have to move into the urban areas, the great workforce that the system has turned invisible, unimportant, as if only the lives of politicians or celebrities were worth knowing about.
I was invited to NYC to collaborate in the Diego de la Vega Coffee Co-op, a project that supports the autonomy of indigenous communities in Chiapas. I had the great opportunity to study the conditions of immigrant workers from everywhere in the globe. I couldn't have been more excited when I was admitted at the Labor Studies MA at CUNY because it would provide me with the knowledge to improve workers’ conditions and learn about labor, globalization, immigration, the labor movement and the many ways in which workers have organized to fight for their rights.
I was absolutely happy and hopeful but, how was I going to afford this amazing opportunity? There is no way my parents could do that, they had already given the best efforts to raise and educate me despite their circumstances.
Things turned really possible the moment I found that there was an organization that could support my goals. I have no words to express how important it has been for me to be supported by CUNY Becas, and how important it is for the development of Mexican people, and the transformation of our communities and life-paths.
A very important aspect of the Becas program is the empowerment and engagement it fosters, a support network that transforms relationships among its members and most importantly, the support received is given back exponentially through the service that we as members give to the Mexican community.
As part of this commitment I had the opportunity to teach Mexican immigrant workers who, just like my mother, couldn't finish elementary school, they all come from rural towns in Mexico, some of them speak Mixtec or Nahuatl.
Teaching and learning from them, has been so far the most meaningful thing I've ever done in my life, and has helped me gather all my interests in one place: workers and education. It has also helped me envision a future in which I can create educational programs for workers to learn about their rights and continue their personal development.
"Young and Insecure: My Inner Battle to Find Myself" by Belinda Buceta (La Guardia Community College, 2016 Becaria)
The transition of my teenage years into adulthood were difficult, as they usually are for most teenagers but being such an insecure girl caused me to stress out over much more. I can now openly talk about my living situation growing up but back then I would have been mortified if anyone found out. My mother raised six kids on her own, living on food stamps and in the projects of Southside Jamaica, Queens. I remember I used to listen in dismay as my high school peers would talk of their homes, the car rides to wherever, their after-school activities that required their parents paying for something, the cellphone they had just gotten, the time their parents would be home from work, the living room they sat in to watch television, their new this, their new that… pretty much anything that reminded me that I was poor and that my mother didn't work would also remind me that I was undocumented and that to me was my biggest embarrassment. I say poor because that’s what it was. I’m tired of using euphemisms to describe my life, so that I may not embarrass myself or others. We weren’t a low income family. We weren’t working class. We were poor and my mother was broke. She didn't work because she had my two youngest siblings to care for. She didn’t believe that she could find a job that would pay her enough to cover expenses after having to pay a babysitter. Maybe she was right, maybe she wasn’t. Point is, she didn’t work so food stamps, charity drives and collecting cans and bottles is what got us by. That’s a reality that I tried to escape in school.
In school, I had friends but I also had walls because for a long time I had a misconstrued idea that people liking me had a direct correlation with them not knowing that I was undocumented and for teenage me, it was very important for people to like me. I feared that I would be isolated and looked at weird if they were to find that out what I tried so hard to hide. I remember not daring to have input during discussions about college because more often than not, such discussions led to talk about FAFSA and parents’ W2s. One I didn't qualify for and the other I didn't even know what it was since my mother didn't work. Up until high school I had been a good student; It was during those four years that my will to go to college was suppressed by my embarrassment of my legal and economic situation. That first year after high school I became depressed. I had nothing to do, no goals, no aspirations. A positive perception of myself was heavily dependent on social acceptance which I lacked because I didn't see myself as a contributing member of society. I remember feeling like a failure and even considering going back to Mexico. To do what? I didn't exactly know, all I knew was that at least I wouldn’t be “illegal” there. Then again, it dawned on me that Mexico would be an even stranger place since I hadn't been there since I was seven and barely knew any family. I got my first job at a small restaurant in Queens that paid me “off the books.” It didn't pay much, but it allowed me to financially establishing myself which was something that my confidence so badly needed. I had to prove to myself that I could succeed and that little job was the beginning but even with that, I couldn't picture my next step.
Shortly after that, DACA was passed and it quite literally saved me. It was the light at the end of a long dark tunnel that I had been waiting for. I have DACA to thank for being one of my biggest boost of confidence, as well as my mentor and friend Eduardo Penaloza who I met at the Mexican consulate when I was seventeen. He kept in touch and it was through him and Mixteca( the immigrant outreach organization he directs in Brooklyn) that I was introduced to the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute and the Becari@s Program which gave me that final helping hand that I needed to step back in school and continue my education. It only saddens me that it took me so long to break away from my negative perceptions of myself and my legal status and look for aid. Then again it was all a learning experience that has molded me into the person I am today. I can now proudly say that I was born in Mexico if asked, because twenty-to-year-old me understands that I am much more than a legal status. The Becari@s network is so inspirational and living proof of what can be achieved through hard work and perseverance; To be a part of it is an honor that I’m thankful for. They were the last piece of motivation that I needed. To now say that I’m now looking forward to finishing my first degree in 2 years, is something that sometimes I still have to pinch myself about. Forever grateful. Siempre pa delante, porque si se puede.
"First Generation" by Dulce Cebada Hernandez (Kingsborough Community College, 2016 Becaria)
I am the first generation in my family that attends college. I complete my associated in Accounting at Kingsborough Community College. It was a struggle that I went through in my life because being undocumented I had to pay for my tuition and I didn’t have other sources that would helped me. After graduating from college I drop school for two years because it was very stressful to pay for my tuition again but with CUNY Becas Scholarship Program it has become a great opportunity to pursue my dreams and help my fellow Hispanic Community.
When I found out I had been awarded to the CUNY Becas Scholarship Program I felt grateful and it means that I was giving a chance to go back to college again. It was a great feeling because I am able to focus more on school and my career. Thanks to CUNY Becas Scholarship Program, I am doing my Bachelor in Accounting and Bilingual Education at Brooklyn College without worrying about the cost of tuition. It fills me with so much enthusiasm that the CUNY Becas Scholarship Program exists today because like me many other students can benefit from this open door opportunity that the Institute has created for the Mexican and Latin American Community. However, there are many undocumented students have not been able to move forward because they lack of the opportunities due to their immigrations status.
It is a pleasure to be a Becari@ and I am very thankful to the CUNY Becas Scholarship Program for their support and for believing in the power of education.
“I am the change” by Nayelly Campos (Lehman College, 2016 Becaria)
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world”, Gandhi once said, I started my scholarship essay with this quote, and I stand by it. My whole life I knew I wanted to become someone more than who is just ordinary, I wanted to be extraordinary, but as we all know, no life is easy and we all face obstacles. Growing up my mom played the role of both mother and father. I saw her struggle, I saw her face of exhaustion, running out the minute she comes out of work to pick me and my brother up from our after school program, making sure we had everything we needed, but I also saw the strength in her. How she managed to wake up every morning to go to work, be a mom and go to school as well. As you can see now this is why I call my mom my idol. Although she tried to put us in the best schools near our home, I still managed to grow up in a community where some teachers didn’t wish to see us, Hispanics, succeed, particularly Mexicans for some reason.
I had this one teacher who told a group of my friends we were all the same and had told us we wouldn’t make it to college, maybe high school. He believed we would fall under the statistic of getting pregnant before we made it to college. It wasn’t just teachers who said this but as well as some of my friends. Which came to a shock to me how they had no faith in themselves. This was probably one of the hardest and saddest things I’ve had to hear, but I wanted to prove them wrong. I KNEW I was going to prove them wrong. I began to volunteer at the age of 14, helping kids out with their homework, teaching people English, and as I got older I started to work in agencies where I feel I could help benefit some ones life, and make them feel as if they can accomplish anything.
As I started college I began to see how much more stressful things have become, trying to pay college with only one salary coming into the household became a struggle, and my family couldn’t manage it. I thought about taking a semester off and working full time to help my mom out with the bills, but none of us wanted that, we were so determined to continue my education so I can be an example to others, and change people’s views on us Mexicans.
That is when I came across the CUNY Becas Scholarship, as I submitted my essay at 11:58pm something in my gut told me I wasn’t going to get it, but at least I knew I tried my hardest. I remember getting an email right before my philosophy class stating, “Congratulations, We are delighted to inform you that you have been selected for the CUNY Becas Scholarship Program”. I can not begin to explain how excited I was, I began to cry because I was sure I was not going to get it, I doubted myself, but I realized I did it! I was filled with joy, and becoming a becario was probably one of the best things that have ever happened to me. I didn’t just meet a group of people with similar struggles, I met people I can call family. In an instant we all connected and were there for one another, and if you were to met us you’d think we’ve known each other our whole life, the way we got along, sang with one another and danced. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to call family. Becoming a Becario meant so much to me, I was introduced to new ideas, and had some weight lifted off my shoulder knowing I was able to continue school, and obtain a higher education, I am grateful for this scholarship, it not only has helped me continue to pursue my dreams but others as well, I’m proud to call myself a becario!
"A Chicana from the South Bronx" by Guadalupe Bermejo (Hunter College, 2016 Becaria)
"You’re from the Bronx, you won’t make it to college, besides, you won’t get the language either so keep trying and you might get there”. Those were one of the words that I recalled from an elementary school as I stole a glance of a college brochure. As a first generation Latina student, it was common for me to receive such comments about my educational career, consequently, the idea of attending college was a mere illusion.
Having this thought in mind, I entered into high school with the ideology that my highest level of education was that of a high school diploma. However, I was suggested to apply to an early college program where students were offered the opportunity to complete a high school diploma in addition to an Associate's Degree. In my senior year of high school, I found myself to have more than sixty college credits in addition to, an advanced regents diploma. Naturally, I shared my achievements with my elementary school teachers.
After making a brief introduction to my teachers in elementary school and middle school, I mentioned that I will be attending Hunter College and will be starting as a junior instead of a freshman. Automatically they replied, “YOU’RE IN COLLEGE?!”. Apparently, growing up in the Bronx with a Latino background is portrayed as unlikely for a person to succeed or to make any academic progression.
Often times, there are people who do not like to see others succeed in the academia. Due to the comments that I have received from the past, there were times when I asked myself, “Is it bad for me to be Mexican?” However, as I look back to my achievements at a young age, the sacrifices that my parents made in order for me to step on the campus of Hunter College is far more valuable than gold. My Chicana background is worn with pride and I thank my parents for helping me achieve the American dream.
My name is Guadalupe Bermejo and I am a psychology and sociology major whose goal is to obtain a PhD in clinical psychology. With the assistance of the Ronald E McNair Scholars Program that provide me guidance with the graduate application, my mentors, Dr. Regina Miranda and Dr. W Jake Jacobs who provided me with wealth of knowledge on psychology by conducting research, to CUNY Becas scholarship, for helping me take steps towards my professional dream, in this case, working towards a Bachelors of Arts in psychology and sociology without worrying about student debt, and lastly to my parents who have been there in my stressful nights. Thanks to all of these amazing people and institutions, obtaining a college education is a dream that is not an illusion but a goal that I plan to make a reality.
To the person who is reading this, we may not share a similar country of origin, religion, culture, or experience. Just know, that we all have the ability to strive no matter what others say. Often times, it is difficult to find an environment where we are welcomed and encouraged to strive and look forward with our heads high regardless of our ethnic background. Thanks to CUNY Becas, I received this feeling of “ I CAN DO THIS” the moment I received my certificate of acceptance. I end this with the following note, a quote that I always look back to in moments of distress:
“Whether or not you reach your goals in life depends entirely how well you prepare for them and how badly you want them.. You’re eagles! Stretch your wings and fly!” - Dr. Ronald E. McNair
I hope that my story serves as a source of “You can do this” no matter what comes across your path.
"CUNY Becas... a second family" by Yessenia Benitez (The City College of New York, 2016 Becaria)
From the moment I received my first information session on CUNY Becas, I noticed that it wasn’t just about a scholarship program. It was about a close-knit community that aimed to help undocumented students in every way possible. When I received my award certificate from CUNY Becas, for the first time in my life I wasn’t afraid of saying that I was undocumented. Previously I had felt as though being undocumented made me less worthy of getting an education. I felt as if I didn’t deserve to get the same things that my citizen friends were getting because I didn’t have any papers and society viewed me as an intruder. I was afraid of telling people of my status because I feared their judgement and I feared that it would corrupt the way they would look at me everyday. I only knew two other girls in my graduating class of over 100 students who were also undocumented which made me feel like I didn’t really fit in. They too were afraid of sharing their status with other peers for the same reasons.
The day I received my award, I was surrounded by people who all had a different story but had that one thing in common. The activities we did prior to claiming our awards had a sole purpose, to show that we were a family now and that everyone in that group had to care for one another. We are suppose to be each other’s backbone, a support group in every way possible, to cheer each other on. This scholarship program not only wants us to succeed in our careers, it also wants us to know that it doesn’t matter what status we have, we should all have the same opportunities and we shouldn’t feel alone anymore. I can honestly say that in all my life I have never experienced such genuine support from a group. The amount of help that the people involved in the scholarship program are willing to give also goes to show how involved they are with each and every one of us. Now that I am a college student for the first time, I am now being introduced to reality. The transition from high school to college has been difficult so far. They don’t aim to make this scholarship program another difficult aspect in every recipient's life, they try to communicate with us as often as they can and so far there hasn't been any obstacles.
All in all, when I think of CUNY Becas, I think of a second family and I am honestly so blessed to know that they decided to provide me with this wonderful opportunity.
"The responsibility of Education" by Hazel Bonilla (Brooklyn College, 2016 Becaria)
Hazel carries the responsibility of education with her. It is a heavy burden, as it includes a collection of books. Throughout the day, she yanks her books in and out of her book bag; a fresh page set in front of her. She is always ready for a new lesson even though she might learn at a slower pace than those around her. The intangible items she carries with her books are the pressure of not succeeding and the engraved sense of responsibility. For Hazel, the more books she carries, the more important she feels even though her books weigh her down. The pain on her back, the awkward slump and the stiffness in her neck are all worth it at the end of the day. She does not even use all of her books but it reassures her knowing she is prepared. The right to an education was a matter that she was never allowed to forget ever since she entered the United States.
Every child goes through the burden of school throughout their lifetime. This is my story, of a life changing realization that is not heard of so boldly. Born in the green lush of El Salvador, my arrival here to New York was one the most vivid memories from my childhood. The blinding lights, the garbled noises, the clutter of people and the permanent color of gray gave me a headache; I felt nauseated as I clung on to my new reality. Despite the madness inside the airport, my mom’s shrewd gaze held me as she dictated, “You’re not a child anymore, you need to start taking care of yourself. Here in New York nothing will be handed to you so you must work for what you want.” Upon my arrival I was still expected to get high grades even though classes were taught in a different language. Adapting was challenging at the age of six but the inevitable forced me to adjust to the cultural differences.
My worst memory was not of the airport but the moment my parents simply told my siblings and me that we would not attend college. “There is simply not enough money,” they said. “College will only be a dream for you.” I was utterly confused why our dreams were being shattered before they even began, but I believed my parents nevertheless. That was the turning point in my life. I had two choices laid out before me. I could slack off and stop caring, or I could fight against all the uncertainty and the lack of promises. I was scared senseless about the possibility of not going to college but not going to school was an option I never considered.
Throughout my educational course, I was always eager to prove myself worthy to my peers. I became frustrated when my peers casually mistreated their grades, I felt incredibly disconnected to their reassurance of their promising futures. I never gave myself the satisfaction of relaxing, I was always driven to work my hardest. Upon entering the Tech and Design Theater program at Brooklyn College, I began to take the next forward to my future by working with companies such as Arts Brookfield, the Labyrinth Theater Company and Culture Project. With my goal in my sight, my major has encouraged my personal growth and allowed me to hone in on my technical skills.
Upon being awarded CUNY Becas, I felt a wave of relief wash over me. I have been blessed by this amazing financial fund and it is not a matter I have taken lightly. I pride myself with the fact that I pay my tuition, transportation and other fees entirely on my own since I graduated high school. It has not been easy; I have had to greatly increase my workload over the past couple of years and have gone through my ramen eating phase. For my last year in college, a great stress has been taken away from me as I am no longer worrying about paying my tuition on time – a fear that I often struggled with as I often sent out my tuition payments past their due dates. I thank the Jaime Lucero Mexican Studies Institute once again for their great generosity and look forward to this final school year.
“Struggle and adventure never end” by Francisco Aquino (Lehman College, 2016 Becario)
I recall very little to nothing of my home country. Considering I was brought to this country when I was almost three I somehow have spotted pictures of a time when my parents took me to a beautiful lake once and of my favorite goat in my father’s ranch back in Mexico. Growing up in this country as the first born was rather disorienting since it was a new place with a new language for my mother and myself. Although my father had been in the United States many years before us he was always working or leaving the house and leaving my mother and I to navigate our new environment unguided.
One of the major missions of our navigation of the new local area was to enroll me into the education system. Being the first born I was going to be the first one to be put into an education system and it was difficult journey for my mother and I as we were rejected countless times for various reasons from different school some being subliminally racist and discriminatory. Finally after countless rejections a school took me in and shortly after my first day of school would become another adventure and struggle. At seven years of age I was too old to be put in kindergarten and so I was put in with the first graders without any prior preparation. Istruggled to keep up with the class I lacked basic mathematical concepts and the English I learned on my own wasn’t enough to get me through my first academic year resulting in me being held back one year. With support of my very attentive teacher and my relentlessness that sometimes ended in tears I managed to move on and continue my education throughout middle school then high school making friends along the way.
Once having enrolled into college I faced the reality and worry of how would I fund this new adventure? Throughout my first academic year my worry wasn’t so much since my father helped me pay my tuition. However shortly after my second semester a family incident resulted in my father and I never exchanging words since cutting off any support I got from him. Everything began to worry me I was afraid of not being able to continue school. At work I had toask for extra hours during the summer to save up enough to pay tuition during the semester but itwasn’t enough and so I worked long hours during the semester too, risking my academics. My social life with the new study friends that helped me before disappeared. I became inactive in school activities and the Dream team club activities where I had a lot of moral support and comfort from my team members. Not until receiving support from CUNY Becas did I feel more at ease. It means one huge help in my continuation of my adventure in obtaining higher education and also giving me the ability to reduce my hours at work to the point where I reconnect with family, friends and team members. Also presenting me the opportunity to further connect with my people with my community where they, like me, know that the struggle and adventure never end.