Janet is currently studying at the University of Washington and is a current Scholarship recipient. She wrote her story to share with you.
My Dad sought to progress and achieve the American dream that most of the people who came to the North talked about. They hoped for a better life for my sister and I. Regardless of this transition, I still grew up living in poverty.
After arriving in America, my family and I moved into my Uncles two-bedroom apartment in Burien. We were living with my two cousins, uncle and aunt. Since then we moved from one place to another.
Constantly moving was harder when my sister and I had started school, especially since we did not know English for the first two years of school. Understanding the homework was tough. Unfortunately, my parents were not able to help me in school. With the exception of teachers and many tutors, I guided my self all throughout my education. I did not have the support that most of my peers had at home. Most of this has to do with the fact that my parents are not familiar with the school system here in America and because they did not speak English. I recall that by second grade, I was always determined to turn my homework in on time. My parents never told me to do my homework and I did not even know about college as I was growing up. I was a very rare kid because of the fact that I did not need an authoritative figure to push me to do well in school. School has always been my number one priority and I feel that this has to do with me having to witness my sister’s negative example.
Unlike me, my sister did need someone to push her to do well in school and since my parents did not take the responsibility to guide us through out our education it was easier for her to give up and drop out her sophomore year in high school. My sister would skip her classes most of the time. No one knew about it until we received a letter from school in which she was being sent to court for all her unexcused absences. When my parents found out, their solution to the problem was to have her dropout and work instead. I was astonished by their decision. After she dropped out, my father had an accident at work and he was unable to work and my mother was unemployed. Through out the time that neither of them worked, we were dependent on my sister to pay the rent for our apartment.
On the other hand, I was doing great in high school. My grades were very high, so in my junior year my counselor talked to me about going to college. I took her advice and began applying to colleges. Money was an issue at that time. My parents were doing odd jobs and their income was not steady. I began to work part-time and save up some money. Sometime I even support my family with utility bills.
Looking back to the beginning of our arrival in the U.S. I still wonder how I made it. I am grateful that I have decided to follow my own path; instead of dropping out, getting married or pregnant. Now that I am at the University of Washington, I still continue to be on my own. I do not have the financial support from my parents, as many of my peers do. I, like many others, have to work harder.
I knew SEA from an older sister who got help from them with her GED. So my sister and I set up an appointment with one of the members at SEA, and that was how my story with SEA started in 2009.
SEA helped me get a scholarship by making me an appointment with their scholarship committee. Then they guided me through the process by emailing me on what exactly I needed to do in order to get the scholarship.
SEA has influenced me to continue my education. I understand that education is our only tool to get out of poverty and it is one of the most successful ways of making changes in society. I definitely value education more. I value what SEA does for people who do not have it easy in life.
Over all, I am grateful that I am taking advantage of the education here in America. I am the first to graduate from high school and the first attending a four-year university out of my family members. I want to be a role model for my younger siblings.
I am determined to make significant contributions to society in the near future. I recently got invited to my former high school to speak to other students who are in a situation like mine. (A situation in which their parents are disconnected with the school system and therefore their childrens education, a situation in which their dream of attending a four year University seems very unlikely because of the lack of their parents financial support.) I gave Hispanic students a speech about going to college and closing the achievement gap for Latinos. We have to think of the future and education is our only defense. The economy is just getting worse as new generations become part of the labor force. Tuition continues to rise as financial aid declines and this just makes attending a higher education even harder for students like myself.