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Wed, Dec 31st - 5:48PM

The Choice to Succeed is Yours

You can be a winner or you could be a loser? Which of the two do you want to be? Now is the time to answer that question. How many times have you been told to work hard, don’t give up, and get an education? If you’ve heard these words many times, I hope today they will sink in.
Today I will tell you how I chose to be a winner. . . how I chose to let the negative experiences in my life help me become a better person, instead of allowing them to make me bitter. I will share my personal story of hard work and perseverance. I will take you back in time as I visit my childhood years when I arrived in the U.S. I will tell you how I survived my difficult years in high school, and how I became the first in my family to attend college and get a college degree. It was not easy, but I worked hard and never gave up.

Today so many young people are too busy to make their education a priority. They take for granted the opportunities this wonderful country has to offer. Many are too preoccupied with technology: videogames, cellular phones, and the internet to name a few. For some, juggling sports, school, friends, and family can become a struggle. How can it be done without losing one’s sanity? It’s possible. What is the answer? Get your priorities straight, stop being lazy, and never lose hope. Don’t let stress take over your life. Stay focused on your dreams for the future. That is exactly what I did, and you can do the same.

I came to California at the age of nine. My brother Max, my sister Dora and I did not cross the river like many others. We were driven across the border hidden inside a box of flowers. We landed in Pacoima near Tijuana and met up with my mother Placida, my sister Chenta and my brother Lorenzo. They came through the border stuffed in the trunk of a coyote’s car. They almost didn’t make it. My mom later told me that they almost suffocated in that trunk. We crossed the border to live with my dad who had been in California since 1969.

When I lived in Mexico, I was a happy child. I climbed trees to the highest limbs and sang to the world. Singing made me feel so free. When I started school, it became my favorite place to be because I loved learning. Things changed when I came to the U.S. When I attended my first school in the U.S., I realized that school was no longer the happy place it had been when I lived in Mexico. I didn’t speak English. I had no friends. I hated to talk to anyone because as soon as I opened my mouth, people saw my teeth and began to look at me strangely like I was some sort of alien. You see, my brother Max and I both had yellow teeth caused by the chemicals in the water of our village. I hated to smile. I didn’t really like talking to people. The worst day of the year was picture day when the photographers would tell me “Say ‘cheese!” They were so annoying. Little did they know that for me, smiling meant ruining the picture. After a year or so, I started to learn English very quickly. I figured out that all I had to do was study hard to improve my English in hopes that the kids would stop calling me a wetback. I didn’t even know what the word meant. I just knew it was not a good thing. Soon, I got A’s in school, and I loved it when I heard my classmates telling me I was smart. I didn’t think I was smart because my dad always told me otherwise. Little did he know that I was on a mission to prove him wrong. I made up my mind that I would work hard in school so all those kids that teased me would have to eat their words. I thought, “Someday you’ll see.”

I made it through my elementary and middle school years, but there were some very gloomy times. It was in high school where I suffered the most. Through those years of hardship, I cried myself to sleep almost every night. Besides wishing for a white, beautiful smile, I also wished the suffering would end. My dad was emotionally and physically abusive, and my siblings and I feared and hated him. Our nickname for him was “The Monster,” but that was our little secret. During my sophomore year, I told the school of the abuse and they arrested my dad. He went to jail, but ended up coming back home. After his arrest and release, I became his worst enemy since he went to jail because of me. Although I excelled academically, my home life was horrible. School was my safe haven. Some of my dad’s rules were: No sleeping in on Saturday mornings. No talking to our friends on the phone. He worked us every single minute we were awake. We cooked, cleaned, washed and ironed clothes, mowed the lawn, trimmed the shrubs and got very little rest. Our rest was when he went out for a few hours. When there was nothing to do at home, he would drive through country roads and drop of my brother and me to pick up aluminum cans.

During the picking and pruning seasons, we worked like slaves. In the summer, we picked grapes all summer long. We pruned and tied vines during the winter. We even had to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas day! If we worked too slow, or if we did the work wrong, we were punished. It was that type of work that convinced me that the only way out was to go to college. It also taught me the value of hard work. My dad would always tell us, “If you don’t want to work in the fields for the rest of your lives, get an education. I took his advice.

From nine years old to twenty one years of age, I worked in the fields with my family. Although we were terribly overworked, the money earned made it possible for us to make to pay for our house in Sanger. Since both of my parents were seasonal workers, we all had to work to save money for the months when they were laid off. Yes, my dad was rough, but he always made sure we were fed and clothed. I felt fortunate to have a dad, even though he was far from perfect. I was thankful that he didn’t abandon us in Mexico, and that he brought us to live with him in the U.S. While I was growing up and dealing with the problems life threw at me, I always tried to focus on the positive things in my life. I had my two legs, my arms, ears, and eyes. There were others that were deaf and blind. I thought of how many people in the world had a harder life. I felt lucky just to be alive. In my mind, there was a brighter, happier future. Those thoughts got me through it all. I was positive that one day things would change for me… and they have. Today, my dad is not the same person he was. I don’t fear him or hate him. Forgiveness has been a process, but I got through that, too. Now I have my own family. My husband and I have three healthy, energetic boys. I have a job where I am happy because I can be creative, and more importantly, because I can share my story of overcoming obstacles. I encourage you to stay strong and focused. I challenge you to make the right choices and plan for your life five, ten years from now. Only you can choose to be better than yesterday. Only you can plan for a better tomorrow through every single action you take. Start today.

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December 2008
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