College Essay: My Parents’ Sacrifice Makes Me Strong

Rosemary SantosGrowing up in a first-generation immigrant family, I witnessed my parents’ hard work ethic and challenging traditional Mexican customs. My parents migrated from Mexico as teenagers to find a better life. They grew up in poor villages where they didn’t have enough resources to support their families, which pushed them to move North to find a job and send money to their families, often working in several jobs.  

After living in Texas briefly, my mom moved in with my aunt in Minnesota, where she helped raise my cousins while my aunt and uncle worked. My mom still glances to the building where she first lived. I think it’s amazing how she first moved here, she lived in a small apartment and now owns a house. 

My dad’s family was poor. He dropped out of elementary school to work. My dad was the only son my grandpa had. My dad thought he was responsible to help his family out, so he decided to leave for Minnesota because of many work opportunities 

My parents met working in cleaning at the IDS Center during night shifts. I am their only child, and their main priority was not leaving me alone while they worked. My mom left her cleaning job to work mornings at a warehouse. My dad continued his job in cleaning at night.  

My dad would get me ready for school and walked me to the bus stop while waiting in the cold. When I arrived home from school, my dad had dinner prepared and the house cleaned. I would eat with him at the table while watching TV, but he left after to pick up my mom from work.  

My mom would get home in the afternoon. Most memories of my mom are watching her lying down on the couch watching her novelas – Spanish soap operas – and falling asleep in the living room. I knew her job was physically tiring, so I didn’t bother her. 

Seeing my parents work hard and challenge Mexican customs influence my values today as a person. As a child, my dad cooked and cleaned, to help out my mom, which is rare in Mexican culture. Conservative Mexicans believe men are superior to women; women are seen as housewives who cook, clean and obey their husbands. My parents constantly tell me I should get an education to never depend on a man. My family challenged machismo, Mexican sexism, by creating their own values and future. 

My parents encouraged me to, “ponte las pilas” in school, which translates to “put on your batteries” in English. It means that I should put in effort and work into achieving my goal. I was taught that school is the key object in life. I stay up late to complete all my homework assignments, because of this I miss a good amount of sleep, but I’m willing to put in effort to have good grades that will benefit me. I have softball practice right after school, so I try to do nearly all of my homework ahead of time, so I won’t end up behind. 

My parents taught me to set high standards for myself. My school operates on a 4.0-scale. During lunch, my friends talked joyfully about earning a 3.25 on a test. When I earn less than a 4.25, I feel disappointed. My friends reacted with, “You should be happy. You’re extra.” Hearing that phrase flashbacks to my parents seeing my grades. My mom would pressure me to do better when I don’t earn all 4.0s 

Every once in awhile, I struggled with following their value of education. It can be difficult to balance school, sports and life. My parents think I’m too young to complain about life. They don’t think I’m tired, because I don’t physically work, but don’t understand that I’m mentally tired and stressed out. It’s hard for them to understand this because they didn’t have the experience of going to school.  

The way I could thank my parents for their sacrifice is accomplishing their American dream by going to college and graduating to have a professional career. I visualize the day I graduate college with my degree, so my family celebrates by having a carne asada (BBQ) in the yard. All my friends, relatives, and family friends would be there to congratulate me on my accomplishments. 

As teenagers, my parents worked hard manual labor jobs to be able to provide for themselves and their family. Both of them woke up early in the morning to head to work. Staying up late to earn extra cash. As teenagers, my parents tried going to school here in the U.S. but weren’t able to, so they continued to work. Early in the morning now, my dad arrives home from work at 2:30 a.m., wakes up to drop me off at school around 7:30 a.m., so I can focus on studying hard to earn good grades. My parents want me to stay in school and not prefer work to head on their same path as them. Their struggle influences me to have a good work ethic in school and go against the odds.