As a first-generation Mexican-American college student, pursuing higher education was something I once thought was impossible. It wasn’t until my first year in community college that I realized just how badly the K-12 public school system had failed to prepare me for a college education. Not only did I lack the fundamental reading and writing skills but also the social and cultural capital necessary to navigate the system of higher education. During my first year at Santa Monica College, I quickly realized how challenging it was for me to balance family and academic responsibilities. Living in a single-parent household, my mother relied on my financial support to make ends meet. I was pressured to work long hours and find additional time to dedicate to studying. Balancing family and educational commitments became too stressful and eventually impacted my academic performance. Understanding the repercussions of this, I knew it was essential for me to find a support system on campus who could help me navigate the system of higher education and improve my academic performance.
Despite the challenges that confronted me, I took the initiative to reach out to my former English professor, who has been instrumental in my academic and professional career, for guidance and academic support. After my first meeting with him, I began to recognize my potential and ability to enhance my reading and writing skills while becoming critical of my educational goals. This profound transformation allowed me to regain the confidence I needed to pursue and accomplish my educational goals.
Upon graduating from Santa Monica College, I transferred to the University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) to pursue a bachelor’s degree in political science and education sciences. With newfound confidence, I have also joined several programs on campus such as the UC Irvine Pre-Law Outreach Program. Furthermore, I worked for the Early Academic Outreach Program as a Student Coordinator. In this capacity, I provide academic support to underserved high school students by assisting them with college planning, enrollment for the SAT/ACT exam, and the University of California and California State University admissions process.
Reflecting on my educational journey, from community college to UC Irvine, I can appreciate how it has shaped the resilient and persistent person that I am today. I have accomplished many incredible things that have enriched my college experience and influenced my educational and professional aspirations.
Walter Ramirez is a senior at the University of California, Irvine and a summer 2018 intern with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.
The content of these posts reflects the opinions of individuals who wrote it and is not an endorsement or statement from the U.S. Department of Education.