Along with members from New Jersey, Dayrene Martinez and Maria Hernandez, and Director of K-12 Programming 2016, Maribel Mendoza, we prepared the Bristol Bot activities and racing competition when we arrived. During the conference, I presented in Spanish for the first time to a room full of note-taking parents. I talked about my educational journey and STEM careers. Other talks throughout the day in the room were on financial aid and a student’s experience at NASA. The parents were very kind and curious about each presentation. They reminded me of my parents, who were in their shoes years ago.
My educational journey is greatly shaped by the persistence of my parents:
My mom asked if I was interested in going to college when I was just eleven years old. I hadn’t thought about it before. Though, I knew education was valuable since she was a part-time college student, and worked full-time. My dad was also very supportive on education. He insisted I call my older cousins to ask for help on my math homework. I would sit for hours trying to explain my math problems over the phone.
I attended, unusually, nine different schools in Los Angeles before graduating high school. My mom made a lot of effort to get me in private, public, and magnet schools as she navigated the various school options in the US as the school system was quite different from the system she was familiar with in El Salvador. She also took me to her college classes and the libraries on the weekends when my dad had to work. I liked to read and listen to the professor’s topics, so I didn’t mind. My dad also made great effort to accommodate his work hours as a tile setter, to drop or pick me up from the schools. Eventually letting me take the school bus for an hour commute to the high school that promised to prepare me for college entry, Downtown Magnets High School, and was open-minded about my extra-curricular activities.
Along with my twin sister, I was the first in my family to attend college far away from home. My parents were very worried about this, but they knew I really wanted to go to UC Davis and Cornell University. They are always encouraging, and I am very thankful for them.
At the STEM 101 conference, I learned that each of us as Latinas, have unique paths into college and sharing stories is a great way to unite us for success. I have had many many failures along my educational path, but my parents have instilled great hope and optimism in me that surpasses the downfalls. Although we may encounter different barriers to college education, these experiences give us strength to get through the toughest situations. They shape our way of being, and can empower us to innovate and better our communities as Latinas in the STEM.