As I prepare to walk the stage and receive my diploma, I’ve pondered the value of my hard work over the past four years and where my determination originates from. As a Mexican and Filipino woman, it was instilled in me from an early age that the knowledge I would acquire from an institution of higher learning could never be taken away from me.
There needs to be more recognition of educated multiracial women because there are so many young, dedicated women who have yet to be inspired. I was taught that education is power. As an educated multiracial woman, that power resides in me and allows me to be self-sufficient in a society that doesn’t always recognize hard-working, intelligent women of color.
I proudly represent both of my cultures. People often say that Spanish and Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, sound very similar. Their language and understanding of hard work are also alike. In Mexican and Filipino culture, there is dignity in working hard.
My family and my culture taught me to finish what I start and to do everything with purpose and to the best of my ability. My parents and grandparents only knew physical labor, and they did it passionately their entire lives. Their work ethic has influenced mine in every way.
What I admire most about both cultures is they value not only accomplishments or rewards like a degree, but also the hard work it took to obtain it. Their dreams of a successful life for me went far beyond the work I could do with my hands, but work that involved building my intellect to obtain greater opportunities.
My family is what has driven me to remain dedicated and determined to obtain my degree.
Being a first-generation college graduate is an important responsibility. It is not simply a phrase to write on a document to get more benefits or incentives. It is a loud statement that exclaims, “I come from a hardworking family and a proud culture, and I am educated.”
It is a title that carries honor. It also requires great sacrifice. One must be self-motivated and self-disciplined. One must also acknowledge that the world may only recognize what one has to offer on paper. One’s struggles may be disregarded, but those adversities lead to victory.
I encourage all my fellow Mexican and Filipino women to strive to get their degree because your education can never be taken away. Cesar Chavez, Mexican-American labor leader and civil rights activist, said “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. You cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We have seen the future, and the future is ours.”
This recognition of achievement has a lifelong impact. It opens the door to a world full of opportunities that will benefit the lives of oneself and one’s family. I encourage any woman who is a first-generation college student to keep pushing forward and to take every obstacle as a learning experience. The struggle may be great, but in the end, the reward is greater.
I did it for my grandparents who came to this country barefoot with only the clothes on their backs. I did it for my parents who worked several jobs to provide for their family and never had the opportunity to get an education. I did it for my siblings to show them that I may be the first in the family to complete a college education, but I will not be the last.