A Long Walk Towards Graduation
By: Astrid Perez
My mom has never learned how to drive a car. Growing up my mom, siblings and I would walk everywhere: to the store, school, the park and anywhere else we needed to go. When my brother and I were in preschool, my mom would take us on a 20 minute walk to school every day.
One day, while my mom was getting my brother and I ready for preschool, rain started to pour. My mom grabbed the phone and began calling our classmates parents asking for a ride to school but it seemed like everyone was going to skip class for the day.
The rain kept pouring and I was starting to think that my mom would allow us stay home but I was wrong. We grabbed our jackets, umbrellas, rainboots and headed out the door.
The rain wasn’t taking a break, water was rushing down the streets, and as a four year old, I struggled to hold on to my umbrella.
I kept wondering why my mom didn’t let us stay home.
When we finally arrived to school, I was expecting to see all of my friends, their parents and the teacher but we arrived to an empty classroom, only an unfamiliar face stood in front of the chalkboard.
The unfamiliar face greeted us and informed us that she would be our substitute teacher for the day.
She checked the watch on her wrist, looked around the room and she began reading my brother and I, the only students in the class, a picture book.
It wasn’t until I got a little bit older when I realized why my mom made us walk to school in the rain that day.
My parents were both born and raised in a small pueblo in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and like many in their small town, they did not have the access or privilege of an education past their middle school years.
With not much opportunity for work in their pueblo, they immigrated to the United States after getting married in the late 1980s.
Throughout elementary school my parents always emphasized the importance of school.
I would always hear them say, “Estudia mucho para que vallas a la universidad un dia (Study hard so you can go to college one day).”
I still remember the countless nights when my parents helped me with school projects, book reports and helping me with long division.
In high school, I began to take honors and AP classes to improve my chances of getting accepted into college.
English, history, government and economics were my favorite classes however I struggled with math and science.
One night while I was struggling with biology homework, I began feeling overwhelmed by the difficulty of the subject and tears slowly started rolling down my cheeks.
My dad heard my sobbing and asked why I was in tears. All though he can not read in English, he immediately grabbed the biology book from my bed and began flipping through the pages, determined to help me with my homework.
During this time, my sister, who is three years older than me, became friends with the wrong crowd and her grades began dropping. As a senior she was suspended for smoking weed and later had to attend a continuation school due to her poor grades.
As the second oldest in the family, I decided that it was up to me to become a role model for my two younger brothers so I pushed myself to ensure that I would get into a good college.
Senior year finally came and I was thrilled when I found out I was accepted into my dream school. It seemed like all of my hard work had finally paid off and I was content knowing I was making my parents and younger brothers proud.
I became the first one in my immediate family to graduate from high school and go to college.
I vividly remember the first time I stepped foot on the college campus, I looked at the brick building and I thought to myself, “This is it. I earned this.”
Unfortunately, midway through the semester the financial aid office at the university, contacted me and explained that there was an error with my financial aid application and I now owed the school $5,000 for the semester.
For weeks, I tried to resolve the issue but I was unsuccessful. Although my parents worked hard to provide for my siblings and I, we simply couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket.
I had no choice but to drop out of school.
I grew increasingly angry; I had done everything right but something out of my control was preventing me from getting a college education.
After two years of being out of school, I thought about all the days when I was younger and how my mom never let anything stop us from getting to school.
I realized that I didn’t want to be defined as a college dropout or a quitter.
I enrolled at my local community college where I knew I was eligible for financial aid.
Community college felt like a walk in the park, every semester I was either on the president or dean’s list.
After two and a half years, I only needed to complete one math class in order to graduate and transfer to San Diego State University where I had been admitted.
During the first week of my last semester I felt a sharp pain in my abdomen, my intuition told me that it was more than just a normal stomach ache.
After 7 excruciating hours in the emergency room, I was diagnosed with appendicitis and I would require an immediate operation.
The surgery was successful and I was discharged from the hospital after 4 days.
While it’s a common procedure with a fast recovery rate for most, recovery did not come easy for me and unfortunately I missed many days of class.
Due to many absences, I failed the only class I needed in order to transfer. I had to say goodbye to San Diego State.
Once again, life threw a curveball at me.
Rather than getting mad at life, like the first time, I didn’t let life’s unexpected roadblocks prevent me from going after my dream.
I enrolled in the same class the following semester and applied to CSULB.
I am currently interning at a public relations agency which represents many of the major movie studios and I’m 9 weeks away from walking on stage and receiving a Bachelor’s degree in journalism.
Thanks to the drive and determination I learned from my parents, my future is looking brighter than a sunny day.