If the hastily written handwriting on my writing tutor job application could tell the truth, it would admit that I was applying for the position only because I needed a reason to believe that my efforts would lead to a purpose. During this time, I felt as though I was running miles toward nowhere: I was a third-year community college student who had recently switched her major from political science to English, and who was looking for a little bit more income to survive. However, I was trying to put in all my effort into my work to make up for my confusion.
I was developing new career goals, I was expanding my skillset, and overall, I was using every ounce of my hard work to be successful. Yet, I was no longer convinced that my effort was going to lead me anywhere. I was lost and frustrated, but I knew that wherever I was, I was too far to give up. Additionally, I knew that I loved literature and writing, so I was convinced that working at the writing center at the community college I attended would help me find my purpose. I eventually found that purpose among all the Latinx students I tutored.
Working as a tutor made me realize that within the Latinx community, there seems to be this group mentality that we have to prove ourselves. Whether I was tutoring a Latinx student who was in the honors program or a Latinx student who did not want to admit that he did not know what a thesis statement was, most Latinx students wanted to prove that they could be successful. They may not have realized it, but they wore their diligence on their very faces. I knew the stories of their all-nighters, of their full-time jobs and responsibilities to their families, and even their desire to go back to school for the “better life” they believed in. The one thing they lacked was a reason to believe in themselves. Seeing how determined they were, I decided that it was my responsibility to help them.
My job became more than just helping my students understand thesis statements or showing their grammatical errors. Before I knew it, I felt as though I had taken on the responsibility of helping Latinx students prove that they were capable: capable of learning, capable of reflecting their intelligence in their essays, and above all, capable of seeing positive results in their hard work.
Admittedly, I still doubted whether or not I was doing enough to help them until one random tutoring session in May 2018 that a Latinx student casually told me, “Thank you so much, I feel better about this now”, that I suddenly felt that I found more than just confirmation about my tutoring skills. That very statement made me realize where I was at that very moment. I was in a tutoring cubicle with a Latinx student who told me that I helped her believe in herself. at that moment, I felt that I could move forward with a sense of direction, that direction to me was to follow the path that would lead me to become an English professor who can use her knowledge to help Latinx students.
To this day, I continue to make the most of my teaching abilities because I want to help Latinos on the education level. I now work as a writing tutor at Orange Coast College while attending the University of California, Irvine. While I still sometimes feel my efforts are not enough or as strong as they should be, my experience helping Latinx students find their voice is enough to push me and make me believe that I can help others. I no longer run toward nowhere, but instead I have a destination.
Emily Aguilar is a senior at the University of California, Irvine and she was a summer 2019 intern with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
The content of this post reflects the opinions of the individual who wrote it and is not an endorsement or statement from the U.S. Department of Education.