Here are a few: Looking back, I can’t discount the sacrifices my family made to get where we are today. Students tracked into this program in elementary school would usually end up in honors and Advanced Placement classes in high school — classes necessary for gaining admission into prestigious colleges. She also persuaded school administrators to test me for entrance into the program, and with her support, I eventually earned a spot. Weiland’s persistence ultimately influenced my acceptance into Brown University.
But I also can’t discount specific moments we had working in our favor. My parents, unfamiliar with our education system, didn’t understand any of this. No matter how hard I worked or what grades I received, without gifted placement I could never have reached the academic classes necessary for an Ivy League school. Weiland, my entire educational trajectory would have changed.
The philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” But in the United States, too often people work hard every day, and yet never receive the opportunities that I did — an opportunity as simple as a teacher advocating on their behalf.
Statistically, students of color remain consistently undiscovered by teachers who often, intentionally or not, choose mostly white, high-income students to enter advanced or “gifted” programs, regardless of their qualifications.
My parents had trouble understanding how independent my lifestyle had become and kept remarking on how much I had changed.
Studying abroad, moving across the country for internships, living alone far away from family after graduating — these were not choices my Latin American parents had seen many women make.Now you’re the Ivy League cousin who speaks a certain way, and does things others don’t understand.It changes the dynamic in your family entirely.” A Latina friend of mine from Oakland felt this when she got accepted to the University of Southern California.Upon entering college, I met several students from across the country who also remained stuck within their education system until a teacher helped them find a way out.Research has proved that these inconsistencies in opportunity exist in almost every aspect of American life.I’ve paid a price in estrangement from my own people, but I was willing.Not every 18-year-old will make that same choice, especially when race is factored in as well as class.In summer 2007, I returned home from my freshman year at Brown University to the new house my family had just bought in Florida. I stood in the middle of this house and burst into tears. I was on track to becoming an Ivy League graduate, with opportunities no one else in my family had ever experienced.Though I can’t remember them explaining the American dream to me explicitly, the messaging I had received by growing up in the United States made me know that coming home from my first semester at a prestigious university to a new house meant we had achieved it.And yet, now six years out of college and nearly 10 years past that moment, I’ve begun questioning things I hadn’t before: Why did I “make it” while so many others haven’t?