“Ponte las pilas mija, puedes ser todo lo que quieras,” my mom always told me. She never failed to remind me to get myself together and work hard because I could be everything I’ve ever wanted. She always pushed me so hard because growing up in the chaos of an area like North Minneapolis doesn’t exactly spark big dreams.
From the cops killing the innocent, to what they call “block boys” supplying drug addicts, to the families stuck in a generational cycle of welfare, never-ending trauma has been ingrained within our community.
My mother never wanted me to become a product of my environment. Between her belief in me and my own resolve, I am determined to escape those chains of poverty and atrocities so I can become bigger than where I came from.
My mom has always preached about the importance of education, but I only recently began to understand why. With a long history of addiction, many people in my family didn’t have many academic opportunities. Typically, they would put their addiction before school or fall into a similar cycle shortly after graduating. Although my mother’s constant reminders floated to the back of my mind, I didn’t realize how hereditary addiction was until watching the cycle continue firsthand and realizing I never wanted to fall victim to those hardships myself.
I had heard rumors about my brother’s issues, but his condition was solemnly revealed to me the day I found his needles sloppily tucked away in the corner of my room. Nobody could lie to me anymore. I had all the evidence I needed. I stomped up to my mom and forced her to explain the problems that resided within our family. As heartbroken as she was, she sat me down and told me her story, a story of years’ worth of disgust, grief, betrayal, anguish and so much more. A similar story to what my brother would soon be living when he fled from our home. In the midst of my newfound knowledge, I promised myself I would be better than them and I would make my mom proud.
Pursuing an education has allowed me to do exactly that. To find a healthier use of my time, I concentrated on my core classes; extracurricular activities like basketball, volleyball and finance club; and other school events. Being a part of a school community has shown me the value of relationships outside of my family and allowed me to expand my horizons. In fact, my closest friends, Carol and Emily, have helped stop me from allowing the temptations of the streets or drugs to draw me in. They taught me life has a greater meaning as long as you create it.
Attending self-development programs like summer camps and writing workshops have also shown me that my own evolution is important. Consistently having an open mind and the eagerness to learn is critical to the growth process needed to keep moving forward in life.
The joy I feel to know I have not only achieved my goals but surpassed some as well is beyond imaginable. Although this is only the beginning, my hard work has begun to pay off for our entire family, but for my mom in particular. As a first-generation student, no one has pushed me as far as she has.
She has sacrificed so many opportunities for her own self- improvement to give me advantages that she never had growing up.
Now I get to repay her with my success. Her anticipation for my future motivates me to go as far as the world can take me. It’s a constant reminder that I always have support to reach every dream that college will bring. I am determined to be the change in my family, and I know I will make her proud.