I’m sorry it took so long to get back to you. It took me some real growing up to do on my part; actually, it took me to become a mother attached with all the labels of a single mother, a poverty stricken Latina whom seems to be hated more each year by the color of her skin. I guess not much has changed since this also was a concern with us back in the day. I’ve always thought about you and always felt as though you were my way out of “El Barrio” or that you were capable of providing the best self-esteem I could acquire one that no one can restrict or devalue. It is said by many that knowledge is liberating and a way to reach social mobility. The feeling of empowerment that comes from education is limitless. Education can be the emancipation of all labels that I have attached to myself and those that society has defined me by.
“Education, Douglas insists. Goes hand in hand with freedom, and the only way to keep people enslaved is to prevent them from learning and acquiring knowledge.” (24).
My earliest memories of you are a bit clouded but I do recall a few sweet moments feeling the tender nature of teachers in school whom instilled a good feeling in me. The first one I can recall is mommy volunteering for kindergarten and having all those fun interesting toys I would try to convince mom to buy so we can have at home. I tried showing her I was sincerely interested in active play, puppets, kitchen sets, dress up clothes. Unfortunately, none of those things were ever done at home so I was really into them when I was in your presence. As I started moving up in grades I started having problems at home. It directly interfered with my ability to concentrate and stay focused when I was attending you.
Here come the bad memories by the time I reached second grade I couldn’t read, so overbearing “machista” dad figured yelling and hitting would do the trick. Again you, You! Had a person who sincerely cared about educating me and like Hsun Tzu saw something broken within me too.
“No sound is too faint to be heard, no action too well concealed to be known.”
My second grade teacher Mrs. Lee discovered bruising and called my father immediately and said,
“Mr. Sanchez, do not hit your daughter there are other ways to get Rocio to read and hitting is not one of them, try having patience and treating her with love.”
I felt safe in that space, I felt as if someone cared and understood the pressures at home. Through educators such as Mrs. Lee I was able to feel included and something special within your walls.
My third through fourth grade education seemed to be a blur that’s when I was sexually abused and it took a toll on my soul and looking back I can see how detrimental that was for our relationship. It seemed to bear great disturbance as the student you needed me to be. By fifth grade I had become angry not knowing I was beginning to lash out at you. I was disengaged with anything positive including you. During this time there was a big adjustment coming up, I was transitioning from elementary to middle school.
Although my parents lost interest in you each year due to their own marital conflicts and language barriers. One thing they both agreed on was shipping me off to schools outside of our neighborhood in Echo Park. I hated the idea because not only was it a two-hour bus ride I would be forced to leave my city and attend some school miles away from home and the peers I grew up with. The social interaction with a familiar group could have possibly helped combat the feelings I was left with after that traumatic incident a few years back. Unfortunately, I fell into the wrong crowd within your walls and began a bad streak; anger and bullying are not a good mix, I began fighting within your walls and doing things that disrespected you. Remember when I said I didn’t want to be shipped away from my neighborhood? I was fortunate enough to be accepted and shipped out to you in Sun Valley but your home school kids made it difficult and someone had already pissed me off way too much to try to make amends with you. So my three years with you at this meeting place was bitter sweet, one because I got to see what a good funded school looks like and the other because it taught me racism still exists. Well I always knew my color was frowned upon, but to support my claim lets talk about the Nazi lovers that would call me a
“wetback” each morning and spat around me, lets not forget “go back where you came from!”
It was bound to happen becasuse I wasn’t in my city and I wasn’t at my home school; I was being brought in as an intruder. You showed me a glimpse of what being part of a better economic background looks like. What it is to be socially accepted and tolerated just by the color of your skin. I didn’t have the same luck every time something was going on; I was being picked on accused and singled out as the troubled child. “I was the brown girl” Unlike my earlier experiences within your educators I wasn’t met by inspirational people who had no bias against my color; it was no surprised when I left you without graduating.
Now it was time for high school I have been holding on to that secret for years now you know the one that flipped my whole existence upside down. I had buildup emotions that were eating away at me. Nonetheless it was a new start again, attending you again called for the same task traveling across town. I was shipped away now to the city of Brentwood right next to UCLA! Yes, I always had an attachment for higher education I just needed to grow up.
One day all became uncovered, I broke down and told my truth of how I had been sexually abused when I was younger; I remember clearly blurting it out and feeling such a relief within myself. This brought even more disturbance between you and I because my parents disowned me just a bit more, they blamed me for the assault and doubted my every word. My senior year I was forced to work and contribute economically to the household and ride public transportation for the remainder of high school. Again, I was met with a lack of empathy, lack of support and disapproval from staff. I was short five credits when I reached senior year. I was underserved because I was never properly counseled to reach graduation and walk the stage. I was left stranded by staff my parents and my own voice. When I finally mustard up enough capacity to speak to the English educator whom had flunked me she said,
“you come every morning and fall asleep in my class, it is as if you do not care about my class, I cannot help you, you will have to take the class over during summer.”
I became enraged and lost all hope in you. I questioned myself like the time I actually tried and came to school every day, spoke up and explained myself, I was left distraught with my self-esteem battered more than ever. Once again, I would not be graduating with my peers or sharing all the special memories and experiencing the same joy as others.
I left high school that summer and worked many jobs, most of which I hated because they were hard labor with low pay and crazy hours. Nonetheless I felt I was cheated and the feelings you provided in my younger years never subsided. They say,
“There is no greater godliness than to transform yourself with the way, no greater blessing than to escape the misfortune.”
The “way” is you, you would free me from misfortune. Education would provide a different path for what is to come.
I left you for many years I even came back with children of my own, still helping my aging parents but definitely with a different strategy. The ability to persevere under any circumstance, the ability to gather grit. I returned to you thirteen years later with an open heart and mind. I vowed to myself and the kids that I would role model my own father figure in my life and have the best spectators cheering me on, my children.
In 2016 I walked a stage with a group of people who had possibly faced many difficulties greater, or similar to my own, but that nonetheless shared the same sentiment; education is the way to a better life and abundant opportunity.
I never stopped thinking of you and knew
“achievement consists of never giving up” (8).
I never had the proper support to stand up to those not adding value to me, I was left alone to fend for myself at a young age and I didn’t quite get that until I graduated. Determined I decided to take the English class and receive a high diploma. I didn’t want the time we had spent and the teachings you had provided to go in vain. A G.E.D wasn’t an option for me if I was coming back to you I wanted to prove that I had it in me to learn the material and succeed.
Fast forward to now, I am in the greatest stage of our relationship because it seems like you have much more to offer in this setting. I’m finding all the support I need in college, and that familiar feeling of safety and caring educators has returned. I have truly missed you and I am engaged more than ever. The feelings of inferiority have diminished to none and I’m happy to acknowledge that I take great pride in returning at your feet; many honor gods and rituals and I honor you, you elate me to such a high level that it is hard to bring me down from. Thank you for always keeping your doors open and allowing me to revisit you. Thank you for never having an end.
“Learning continues until death and only then does it cease” (8)
Douglass, Fredrick. “Learning to Read,” Reading the World: Ideas that Matter. 3rd ed. Ed. Michael Austin. New York: Norton, 2015. 24-29. Print.
“Case Highlights Teacher Tenure Troubles.” Marshfield News Herald, Jun 19, 2014, pp. 8. ProQuest, https://libproxy.elac.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.libproxy.elac.edu/docview/1537354083?accountid=37269.
Tzu Hsun. “Encouraging Learning” Reading the World: Ideas that Matter. 3rd ed. Ed. Michael Austin. New York: Norton, 2015. 24-29. Print.