Column: Parents, culture provide strength, drive to succeed

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I am a Latina, born and raised in Walla Walla. The moment my parents left their small town in Mexico and stepped foot in Walla Walla in 1990, their lives, and eventually my life, were completely changed.

My parents finished the seventh grade in Mexico. Upon arriving in the United States, the only jobs they were able to obtain were as seasonal workers. Even now as U.S. citizens, my parents still are unable to find a job where they are not required to lift heavy objects or be out in the hot blazing sun or freezing weather due to their lack of education.

For this reason, they always stress the importance of higher education to me and my siblings. With a degree, we will be able to earn a living from something that interests us and not from an undesirable occupation that is low paying and requires no prior experience.

Coming to a new country, earning minimum wage, adapting to a new life and giving my siblings and me a better life, my parents have achieved much. They are my main motivation to pursue higher education; they have helped shape me into the person I am now.

My parents have been working hard for the past 24 years to see my siblings and me receive our high school diplomas with the hope to see us graduate from college. They want us to take advantage of the opportunity to receive the education they were not able to obtain.

Seeing my parents still struggle in today’s economy has motivated me to work hard to earn a college degree. It would be unfair to see their 24 years of hard work go down the drain.

I love my parents very much and I would be completely heartbroken to see them, my main motivators, disappointed in me. This is the reason why I keep pushing to stay in college and earn my degree.

Sometimes during high school, I was stuck trying to figure out my homework and school-related projects on my own. The most my parents could do was encourage me to try harder and to ask my teachers for help.

This experience of seeking help from teachers has inspired me to become an elementary schoolteacher. I can be that role model to those students and help guide them to the path of success.

Regardless of my parents’ education, my siblings and I are giving our all to improve not only our own lives but our parents’ lives as well.

I know there are various stories out there similar to mine, yet I feel many people in our community still do not understand me or my culture.

I recognize not everyone can put themselves in my shoes, but I am tired of hearing that immigrants are in the United States to steal everyone’s jobs. I am tired of hearing racist jokes toward Mexicans that imply we are lazy and uneducated. I hear negative comments that put down the Dream Act; these comments crush young people’s dreams to become the next engineers, lawyers, doctors or elementary teachers.

I know this world is not perfect but how do I make everyone see the rich history my culture has to offer or see the sacrifices made by the people in my culture to survive and adjust to the dominant white culture we must learn to live in? How can I make people see how much my parents went through for my siblings and me to become successful and attain a higher education?

There are a myriad questions running through my head I know will never get fully answered.

I want everyone to know and see how, with the help of my parents, I will get that college degree and become an elementary teacher. I want the world to see how my culture is smart, persevering and strong.

Brenda López is a 2013 Walla Walla High School graduate and a current student at Washington State University, majoring in elementary education and Spanish. As a Wa-Hi student, she was president of the Latino Club and a Garrison Night School Pre-literacy program tutor. At WSU, she is was a team leader for MECHA’s CASHE Conference in November and a member of the Performance Project, which is a theatrical production consisting of 10 student actors who share a story based on discrimination or overcoming challenges.

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