I spent my childhood believing that education was not an option for me and that sooner or later I would probably be joining my parents and siblings in the hot and arduous work of the fields.
I come from a family of 14, including my parents. The majority of my siblings have an education no higher than the sixth grade.
When I arrived in this country at the age of 9 from a small town in Mexico, I had no knowledge of what college was and how it could provide me with a future different from working in the fields.
My first few years in this country were the hardest. I felt at times like any school day could be my last because obtaining an education became more meaningless.
It was difficult for me to understand why my parents wanted me to put education as a priority in my life, especially when I did not understand the language in school.
From my point of view, I should have been assisting my family financially by working in the fields.
I remember my parents waking up at 3 a.m. every day. They would try their hardest to be as quiet as possible because they did not want to wake up my sisters and me.
They would leave the alarm on for 6 a.m. so my siblings and I could wake up in time to leave for school. I would not see my parents again until they would return from work 12 or 13 hours later.
It seemed unjust to me that my parents would work so hard and for such a long time for only enough money to scrape by each week.
When my sister and I were old enough, we too, in the summers would wake up at 3 a.m. to help my parents in the onion fields.
It was there, in those onion fields, where I realized I did not want to be a field worker for the rest of my life.
As the years have gone by, my beliefs have changed and I have come to understand that education is the only way for me to help my parents.
Right now, my parents do the hard work in the fields so my sister and I will not have to in the future. Their desire to change the course of my life has led me to appreciate and value my education.
Being part of AVID, the college readiness program in my high school, has helped me immensely by creating academic challenges for me that I have now surpassed.
I have been successful in maintaining a grade-point-average of 3.57 during high school and I am a member of the National Honor Society.
My academic goal for my senior year is to maintain my grade point because I know my grades will still count when it comes to acceptance to a four-year university.
Although it is important for me to maintain high grades, I have been able to manage my time and set priorities related to my academic achievement as well as the scholarship and college application process.
I was accepted to attend Washington State University last November because of my good grades, but I am also interested in attending Gonzaga University. After high school, my goal is to major in zoology.
After receiving my degree, I eventually hope to go on to medical school and eventually become an emergency room physician.
What has led me to select this career path has been my deep interest in them and the fact this career path will allow me to give back to my community and grant me the opportunity to motivate those around me.
Coming from a small town in Mexico filled with poverty made me realize it is very hard for people to get medical assistance. I used to believe I could not do anything about this issue that the people in that small town face every day, especially in relation to the illnesses that were common among small children.
I still remember my mom worrying when one of us got sick because the closest hospital was an hour away and we did not have transportation to get there.
Someday, I want to go back to Mexico and assist the people of my hometown by providing medical assistance to them.
The inner drive to further my education is due to my desire to be a role model for my younger sister and my older siblings. I want to demonstrate that education is the key to a better future for our family.
Ana Andrade is a student leader and treasurer of the Walla Walla High School Latino Club. At Walla Walla High School she is a participant in the AVID program, a Link crew leader, Future Business Leaders of America, and a member of the National Honor Society. Next fall she plans to attend Washington State University or Gonzaga University to major in zoology with the intent of going on to medical school.