Thursday , April 20, 2017 - 5:15 AM1 comment
OGDEN — When she was 15, Leticia Rodriguez, now a student at Weber State University, learned a tough lesson.
As her friends started investigating the possibility of college and scholarships, she suddenly realized that life after high school would likely be a very different experience for her. As an immigrant from Michoacan, Mexico, she couldn’t go after federal financial aid, for one thing, limiting her ability to pay for college.
“Doors immediately started closing for me,” she said. “It was very devastating seeing other students applying for scholarships while I couldn’t, despite having the same skills, potential and abilities that my friends had.”
In some ways, the college experience is universal, fraught with challenges for all. Latinos, however, particularly immigrants and first-generation students, can face distinct obstacles and frequently come to college with a very different backstory. To highlight that, several Latino WSU students took to the stage for a spoken word presentation, offering their very personal take on growing up and college life.
It can be tough at college, said Andrea Salcedo, a Weber State senior and the organizer of the event — Mi Verdad or, in English, My Truth. Being the first generation of a family to go to college, children of immigrants who came to the United States in search of something better, your parents may not fully grasp the hard work that’s required just to get by.
“For me, I know that it’s just really hard to tell my dad, ‘I can’t do that,’” Salcedo said, alluding to occasions when she’s faced particularly tough challenges at school. “He’s like, ‘How can you not do that? ...I went through this and this as a child. You know, I made it simple for you.’”
But such parental pressures are only part of the deal. The students who gathered last Friday, April 14, at WSU’s Wildcat Theater discussed numerous issues. Battles with mental illness. Concerns about measuring up to other students. Attachment to Mexico. Struggles with weight. Being a student while raising a child. Worries about undocumented relatives.
Salcedo hopes the initiative continues in years to come under other WSU students. Perhaps more importantly, she hopes a message of hope shines through, a sense that just because it’s hard doesn’t mean college is impossible.
“Although it seemed the world was against me, I never gave up,” Rodriguez said.
From California and Mexico
The student presenters’ parents, siblings and others were on hand for the WSU presentation. Olga Antonio, coordinator at WSU’s Center for Multicultural Excellence and one of Salcedo’s mentors, hopes, like Salcedo, that it serves as inspiration.
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College can be difficult “but you can still be here, but there’s support,” she said. “You may fall, but then you can get back up.”
Andrea Done, who came to the United States 13 years ago, discussed her struggles to master English and efforts as a WSU student to keep her grade-point average near the top. “Don’t let anybody tell you what you can and can’t do. You can do what you want, you just have to put in the work,” she said.
Alexis Frias cited his multicultural roots. “I’m from California and Mexico at the same time,” he said.
Rodriguez, echoing many, spoke of her efforts to convey to her mother, the single parent of three, the difficulties of college. The woman initially wanted her daughter to put her focus on work and helping with household expenses, though she eventually scaled back her demands.
“My mom has become my greatest supporter and motivator,” Rodriguez said.
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