Mi Latina Feminist Voz

Opinions & Perspectives From My Life

Many that know me might be surprised to learn this, but I cried my first day of kindergarten. I didn’t want to go to school. I remember my mom promising me a pair of those dress up high heels, but only if I didn’t cry. Well, I guess I didn’t care much for them because I cried.

I started that first day of school with my aunt. She, unlike myself however, was very happy to be at school. I remember her trying to calm me down, and then I remember that eventually I made her cry. You might be thinking, “her aunt?” Yep, I have an aunt who is my age. We were born the same year. From what I recall, she was much happier to be in that classroom than I was. I don’t quite remember what it was or why I cried.

Little did I know at that time that I would end up in school for much longer than I or my parents would ever dream of. After high school graduation, I spent four years in undergrad, two years earning my master’s degree and then three more years at the doctoral level. That’s nine more years of school! Phew! It’s funny to think that I cried that first day after all that. I got over it after that first day…obviously! (insert happy face emoji with wide smile).

I guess if I have any point here it’s that it’s okay to cry on your first day of school. Those might be tears of knowing there’s a long journey ahead of you…hehehehe. It has been one heck of a journey, but it has been so worth it. I would not change anything for the opportunities that I have been blessed with.

It’s okay to cry, let them.

P.S.- My mom gave me that pair of heels anyways, my aunt got a pair as well.

I remember it clearly, her smile so wide and her eyes with that glitter that tells you just how happy someone is for you. This was the smile of my 8th grade middle school English teacher when she told me I had scored high on the proficiency exam and that she had recommended me for freshman honors English. I knew she believed in me and in my ability to succeed in school but I did not understand what that meant.

What I did not realize? That one class would set me up into a college prep honors track that would make me eligible to apply for college. I did not know yet that there were certain classes I needed take in order to be able to apply to four year colleges. I would not have been the first or the last student to want to go to college and not fully understand what I would need to do to prepare.

The memory of that teacher’s glittery smile and joy continuously reminds me of the important role we all have as educators, whether you are a 2nd grade teacher, a high school teacher, or a counselor. Success has different paths, we should not expect everyone to follow the same trail, but it is those around us that can make a difference and have an impact on the route we choose to take. That teacher was one of many educators that encouraged me, believed in me and inspired me. As I have gone on through higher education I’ve observed and experienced how much one person can make a difference in the life of others.

I only hope that in my journey to give back as others have given to me, that I too make a positive difference in someone’s life and a presence in someone’s story.

What does it mean to be first gen? Understanding how to help first generation college students has been a prevalent topic within higher education. I’m not sure I quite understood what this meant for me when I began my undergraduate journey. I don’t believe I knew what being a first gen college student even meant at that time. What I am choosing to focus on here, however, is beyond the first gen college experience. Today, I remind myself that I continue to be first gen. You see, to me, being first gen goes beyond graduating from college.

What I realized and strive to remind others of, is that being first gen comes with a huge responsibility. It goes beyond college and into your personal and professional life.

I found that what I am doing is changing the socio-economic status and the expectations to come for the future generations within my family.

It is no secret that the expectation for college graduates is to gain higher paying employment. However, it is also no secret that it takes time and hard work.

That hard work goes well beyond college, and it is hard work to be first gen. If you just sit and think for a minute, there is work and responsibility that comes with being the first college degree holder within your family. This is a tremendous accomplishment, it is a big deal! We should be celebrating beyond graduation day. For many of us, we move forward with thoughts of how to give back and help those that have helped us. There’s friends, family, loved ones that look to us as role models and for help with how they can do what we did. Our friends and family members have dreams of their own whether it is for themselves, their children or their own family members.

I’ve never stopped being first gen.

I also cannot speak of being first gen without talking about my identity as a Latina. As a woman, there have been further barriers to break through, such as the expectation of marriage and having children. It has baffled me how much society expects of women to take the traditional route. There are so many assumptions that come with this expectation.

I took the route that is still less traveled, traveled by many other Latinas, but still too few of us take this route. I decided to complete my education and work on my career before anything else. The thing is, if I had not, then I’d be less able to help others. I see it as my role and as the plan that was set for me. I am a person of faith and feel strongly that everything happens for a reason. Had I not taken this route, I wonder, who else would have. The reality is that its’ up to us. Whatever route we take, as we go further in life and as we accomplish, I see it as our responsibility to take others with us and help along the way.

Being first gen is no joke, we are making a generational change, think about that. It is hard work. 

 

By Rocio H. Fajardo, Ed.D.

I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. My mother said I was a quiet child. She shared that she would give me a book and I’d pretty much loose myself in its pages. No surprise now that as an adult, I have more books than I have time for. Every time I find an author whose books I love, I feel the need to read their entire collection.

In my elementary days, I read a lot of R.L. Stine’s books, especially the Goosebumps collection. When we would go to the mall, I always went into the bookstore to see if I could find a new book or perhaps a different author. I was the young student who often visited the library during lunch to look for new books to read. The issue was that the library at the elementary school had a limit to how many books you could check-out at a time. Whenever I was at my limit, if I found a book I really liked, I would read it and then I would hide it so I could read it again the next day (Teehee).

Yep, I hid books, just in case someone else happened to want to read the same exact ones, because, you know, that happened a lot (right!). One day I got caught by the librarian and got in trouble…. if I ever got in trouble in school it was for hiding books. Rebel, right?! 

What I did not realize at that time is that reading was giving me knowledge. I was learning words without realizing it. This is significant given that English was not my first language. Today I find myself reading more nonfiction and memoirs, but I still delve into fiction and I often start more than one book at a time.

Reading gives me knowledge and that knowledge is what empowers me.

As I’ve grown up I’ve encouraged my nephews to read through gifts. My gifts to them, most of the time, have been books…. every now and then I’ll equip them with gear from one of the colleges I’ve attended (hoping that is also encouraging in some way). What they may not understand is that those books contain not just stories, but words that will add to their vocabulary and their knowledge.

I will always remember, that when I was little, my mother took me to the library.

Perhaps at that time she may not have guessed the impact that would have had on me, but it’s one of the memories I will always cherish.

I was a studious kid and loving to read has brought me very far.  I don’t hide books in the library anymore, but I do think my husband wishes he could hide the bookstore from me…and iBook’s, and amazon…and any place that will allow me to make further book purchases. I do hope that my nephews will remember me as the aunt who got them those books….at the very least I hope that they will remember our visits to the bookstore and that it will have a positive impact on their life’s.

When I was little, we often took trips down to Tijuana, B.C. in my dad’s small Toyota truck. We spent weekends visiting with family and I can recall enjoying spending time with my cousins. I have one specific memory from these trips, however, that is perhaps one of my earliest recollections of recognizing gender expectations. I must have been around 4 or 5 years old, so of course

I did not at that time understand completely the expectations that would be bestowed upon me simply for being female.

I remember it as a hot day and us being in traffic. My older brother, who is about 5 years older than me, decided to take his shirt off because of how hot it was. I don’t know why, but I often looked up to him, but as I see my nephews now I see that the little ones often admire their older siblings. Of course, when we’re that young we don’t always know how to differentiate from right and wrong, or at least what society or perhaps our parents tell us is right and wrong.

I remember that when he took his shirt off I wanted to take mine off too. So, I looked to my mom and told her I wanted to take my shirt off just as my brother had. At that moment, I remember him saying to me that I couldn’t take my shirt off because I was a girl. I don’t know what I said, but I do remember being bothered by it. I also remember my mother coming to my defense and telling him to leave me alone. I was about 4 or 5 years old for crying out loud! I can’t recall all the details, but yes, I do remember some significant moments from my life (believe it or not).

What I believe bothered me was being told that I couldn’t do something because I was a “girl.”

Growing up I can recall instances that would seem unfair to me and would upset me. I strongly dislike being expected to fit into the mold of what society expects of me simply because I am a woman. I am by no means perfect, but I make an effort to understand the experiences that have shaped me to become the person that I am today. I can say that it is going against expectations that has taught me the best lessons in life and molded me into a strong individual.

 

At this past Sunday’s mass, the question that arose during the reading was, “who do you look up to?” Of course, in that context, the reference was to that of a higher God. I have certainly always held in faith and believe that my course in life has been planned out specifically and uniquely for me. I don’t mean to get too religious…. but,

regardless of what beliefs any of us hold, we all have those folks that have believed in us and whom we give our utmost respect to.

I feel a different kind of peace attending mass. I don’t know how to really explain it. The words that are spoken almost always make me think about another area of my life. This got me thinking about the individuals that I have looked up to throughout my educational and professional journey. There have certainly been many individuals that have helped me along the way, and many who have seen things in me and in my abilities well before I could come to recognize them myself. But who I began to think about is my mother.

I have never looked up to someone as much as I have looked up to her.

Both of my parents have always worked very hard, they have an incredible work ethic. My mother worked in the strawberry fields, but she also worked at home. Regardless of all the work she had ahead of her, she made time to take me to the library and very often attended my award ceremonies during my elementary days.

If you met her, you would never know how much she has endured in life.

She has a positivity and a warmth to her that is contagious and would never make you guess the hardships she has endured. I can’t explain it really, but I have been spoiled by that positivity in ways that money and materialism can’t compete. Perhaps its why I go the other way when I sense negativity. I owe a lot to my mother, but more than anything I attribute my strength and endurance in life to her.

So, I ask you, who do you look up to? And how have they influenced your life?

 

I’ve been wanting to start my own blog for several months now. I discovered that I love anything writing, reading, and researching. However, something almost always held me back. It was like the cucuy, an invisible monster under my bed…okay, maybe when I was 5 years old I believed in the cucuy (El cucuy is Spanish for ghost). Nonetheless, I was being haunted as an adult! Sounds childish, right?!

I felt insecure about my writing even throughout my dissertation experience.

You see, English was not my first language and, somehow, I had internalized the belief that because of this I couldn’t possibly be a good writer. I was born in the U.S. and all, but, as we know it, many grow up in this country with a primary language spoken at home that is not English. (See Pew Research Center Fact Tank).

My first language was Spanish. Till this day, I often think in Spanish and speak in English.

Whaaaat? Yes, often, especially when I am on the spot, such as presenting to an audience, my nerves kick in and I forget my words. My brain quickly scrambles for what I am trying to say and it often does it in Spanish. I find myself quickly having to translate and speak the darn word(s). It sounds like quite a process, but really, it all happens in a matter of seconds.

The funny thing is, put me in front of a true Spanish speaking audience, and then the opposite happens. Yes, insert fist palm to forehead emoji here. Well, the same occurs when I’m writing.

Sometimes I even write words that I did not even know I knew the meaning to.

And there’s my insecurity. I mean, you wrote a whole dissertation, stop it already! (so says my inner voice).

So what changed? Three things. 

First, I can honestly say that the cucuy still haunts me, however, I have become more confident in my writing and I have realized that my bilingualism is a major asset. Puedo hablar e escribir en dos lenguajes (I can speak and write in two languages). Although the Cucuy may still appear, I’ve learned to confront it rather than let the fear of it take its course.

Secondly, it was not until I attended the ACPA About Campus Writers Retreat that

I realized how much I was letting fear control my ability to write.

Through a series of writing sessions and feedback from the About Campus editors, I learned that I had important things to write about. The retreat demystified the writing process for me. My article for About Campus is a work in progress, but that in itself is progress already.

Third, while attending the ACPA Convention this year in Columbus, OH one of my goals was, well, to work on my goals. I looked for any workshops and professional development that would help me advance in my career. The universe heard me and led me to Sinclair Ceasar’s workshop on “How to Start a Blog and Build a Following.” (visit https://thesapronextdoor.com ). This workshop simplified the process for me, and when I reached out to Sinclair he made it seem simple, he wrote “All you need to do is write a rough draft, edit it, edit it again, and go ahead and post it,” (email communication April 16, 2017). He had a point, I had to just sit down and write.

So here I am, tackling my inner Cucuy and sharing my first official blog.