I am a Latino who has proved many wrong. Some may consider myaccomplishments lucky, but they are mistaken. Friends criticize me because I get good grades andactually work for my education. People of my culture think I have dishonored them and run away frommy destiny. If working at fast-food restaurants or making minimum wage was my destiny, then Iaccept these accusations of dishonor, which I define as a failure to excel. I will be the first inmy family to graduate college. I will be one of the few Latinos with a college degree, and I willhave a lifetime of jobs that require more than a basic education.
The barriers that I haveto break are extensive. College is an obstacle I will soon approach and even though I know it willbe tough, I also know I will do well. At times I need encouragement. I have to be told that theminimum isn’t always the best option and I’m capable of more. I have to give in orderto
receive. Education is the key to a better life and job. Believing in myself and notpaying attention to the way society portrays people can help me advance.
I have proven to mycommunity, family and friends that I can overcome adversity by achieving high honors throughouthigh school. I have ignored frequent comments like, “Puerto Ricans aren’t smart. Canyou name some who have actually made it?” I made it through foster homes, group homes, failedadoptions, and separation from my biological brothers and sisters.
I am standing up formy culture and proving to society that Latinos can make it in the world. I can handle stress. I canhandle jobs that require me to think or make tough decisions. I can make it in life and corporateAmerica. I’m proud of my culture and the troubles that I have overcome - the physical andemotional abuse I faced in the homes. I no longer listen to people who say, “You’regoing to end up like your mother - on crack and in the streets.” I will not listen to adultswho belittle me and call me stupid.
Society, family and the community didn’t expectmuch of me. Having more money and a better life were just fantasies. Getting a job was away in which my culture believed those fantasies could come true. As a former foster father toldme, “Money is the only way you can make it. School is good, but money is better.” Hebelieved holding a job was success. Society sees Latinos as cleaners, fast-food workers andmechanics.
Latino families have to work harder because they’re supporting a familywith a job that only pays minimum wage. Most are lucky to graduate high school, and few think aboutcollege. Since we are often considered unsuccessful, violent and uneducated, I have to disprovethese labels. I have to prove to my foster families, community and society that Iam educated and capable of more than the minimum expectations. I can be sophisticated andexcel in competitive situations. I am proud to be a Latino who will reach superior goals.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.