Written By Crystal Gonzalez
It’s the final stretch. I can feel the finish line of senior year at my fingertip. After thirteen years in school, I’m able to reflect back and realize that going to school was probably one of the easiest parts of my life. Around 9 th or 10 th grade, the thought of going to college begins to set in for most teens. My story, however, was a little bit different. Growing up, I never heard stories of my family members going off to college and how that whole experience helped “shape them”. My mom grew up in Mexico, along with her other siblings, and they eventually moved to California to seek a better life than the pueblo they lived on had to offer. There was no
priority for my mom to go to school. Instead, it was for the good of her family that she focused on working to support them.
Because my mom wasn’t given the chance to obtain a complete education, she made it her duty to ensure it could become a reality for me and my siblings. As I ventured through my childhood, my mom constantly instilled in me the idea that obtaining a higher education was both possible and necessary. My mom is our head of household, and she is our main source of income. She’s spent her years in the United States cleaning houses and working for fast food industries. Because of the low pay, she’s had to work long, difficult hours to help make ends meet. I’ve just always wanted to obtain a higher education to make my mom proud after all of the hard work and sacrifices she’s made. The day my mom no longer has to work will be the day I feel fulfilled.
Being a first-generation student helped motivate me to take on challenges and create my life the way I envisioned it. Although I loved being in school, being a reserved person was something I always struggled with, and it hindered my learning. My volunteer work was a major factor in helping to ease me out of my shyness. I grew up in affordable housing with Many Mansions, and this nonprofit offers a Teen Leadership Program to their resident youth each summer. Through this program, I was able to lead groups of 15-20 children with daily crafts, activities, pool days, and field trips. We also worked with the children on math and reading to help combat summer learning loss. This program is 7 weeks long, and I have volunteered approximately 150 hours of work each summer since I was 12 years old.
Through this program, I’ve been able to find my voice. I’ve learned to muster up the confidence to stand up in front of a room and help offer the same camp experiences to my younger peers who also grew up in affordable housing. I’ve worked to become a leader and a role model to those around me, and to give them all the same hope I have for a higher education. I’ve never followed the belief that one is born with great intelligence or superior athleticism. I believe you are able to move forward with the effort you’re willing to put forth, and that mentality has followed me throughout my life.
In my final weeks of high school, I feel eager to finally attend college to become a registered nurse. My compassion for people and my desire to help others, combined with my love of math and science, has driven me here. Although I plan on pursuing a “traditional” career, I plan on using my work in “non-traditional” ways to go beyond. While I may find myself working in a hospital or for a private practice, I will undoubtedly continue to make volunteering in my community a part of my life. I know that those who are homeless, low-income, immigrants, and many others do not always have equal opportunity to attainable healthcare. I also know that having insurance comes at a great cost. I would love to be able to one day volunteer some of my time at free clinics or in other capacities that will help give others quality healthcare and equal opportunities. This will be my contribution to help make this world a more positive place.