KEEP THE LEARNING GOING
Now that school is out, most of us will get to sleep in, hang out with friends and play into the Alaskan sunny summer nights. However, if you live in a Latino household, your mother will probably have list of “chores” a mile long, which have to be done before she gets home, not to mention helping a family member or a neighbor clean the garage or help with their chores… for free! You will likely hear the saying, “don’t do it for money and be grateful”. You’re not alone in that, even my accomplished and successful mother is still deeply-rooted in traditions that I only hear about or experience through her and my family.
My mother immigrated to this country with her family in 1976. I’m a first generation American born to a Mexican mother and a Venezuelan father. However, my mother is both my parents – that’s another story. With my mom, getting good grades and being academically successful was not an option; it was expected. I guess you can say I’m a “good” student. I’m good at remembering some of my homework, I’m good at getting to class on time (most of the time), and I’m good at being socially connected even during my Math class, I’m also infamous at being “good at” keeping my room clean for couple days out of the week. My mother says that good can turn into better, and better can turn into exceptional, and that effort makes the difference between a “C” and an “A” student. I’m certain that this isn’t foreign to you, as I write it, I make sure not to use words that my mother would normally say out of respect for her and fear of the “chancla“.
I was in 10th grade of high school when I discovered that I’m not a traditional student type. My teachers thought I had a learning disability or maybe attention deficit disorder, but through my mother’s relentless efforts to address my learning challenges, we discovered I had neither and that I am simply more of a hands-on learner. It was through these trials and tribulations that I came to King Career Center (KCC). This past semester I was enrolled in the Diesel Power Technology program. I have not only discovered how fun learning can be, but I have also completed the aviation mechanics, aviation technology and welding programs offered.
When I return to school this fall I will be the in first ever graduating class from KCC Technical High School, in the Anchorage School District. Initially, I was hesitant to enroll full time, I thought about my friends and not graduating with them. Naturally, my mother brought it all into perspective-- in that special Latina mother style – you know, the one that makes you feel guilty for even thinking about it as she compares it to her experiences and her grandparents’ experiences… you get the point. My mother made me realize the vast opportunities of being part of history, contributing to writing new chapters and endless ideas with which to paint on my own black canvass. Her perspective on KCC Technical High School and her words eventually made their way into my stubborn head and I saw what she saw, potential.
Many of us have working parents, or single households, so summer vacation means that taking care of our siblings will be our job, but whatever your summer plans are, I want to say “KEEP the LEARNING GOING.” You have many resources online, for example I discovered through learningpath.org resources where you can register for free courses, download books, etc. You can explore the world and opportunities that are on the palm of your hand.
Today I reflect on how on the last day of school we would have a family dinner with our cousins to celebrate our move into the next grade. Soon after, my mother would prepare a sheet of paper listing our summer activities, including learning camps, church and community volunteering, career workshops for youth at the local public library, or participating in advocacy work.
If it was free, I was enrolled. If it was a social cause, I was either making signs or participating at a grassroots level. Nowhere on that sheet of paper was sleeping in or hanging out with friends. I realize now that my mother was building a foundation so that I could discover my own interests and add to that foundation.
Maybe that is why being at KCC next year sounds more and more exciting. While some friends don’t have summer plans yet, and others graduated, I find I have a plan. All those past summers taken up by activities that I thought were meaningless and a waste of time where actually ways my mother kept the learning going and that would shape my outlook in life and the man that I am becoming.
I wrote this article as a first-generation American who is connecting and finding the balance between my mother’s upbringing that is connected to her parent’s, and mine. It’s challenging at times, but if you take a step back and see the larger picture, it could save you many “go to your room days” so that in the free time you might get, you can actually sleep in and hang out with your friends.