(Interviewed by Carolina )
Laura was born in Mexico City and lived there until the age of 4. She migrated to the U.S. in 1992, 21 years ago, to a small rural town in central Washington State. This past May 2013 she graduated with a Masters in Higher Education Administration. Laura aims to work alongside students in an effort to re-imagine/re-construct what it means to attend an institution of education (high school, vocational program, community college, university, etc.) to challenge the current educational structure.
Why did you decide to go to graduate school? One of the reasons was due to the 2010 failure of the passage of the DREAM Act, I was devastated knowing that upon my graduation I would no longer have something to look forward. At that time my bachelors degree was meant for me to work at an institution of higher education and without the DREAM Act there was no way that I could pursue my career. Coming from a multitude of identities that are oppressed and also having had the privilege to attend college I knew that I had to use my networks, my privilege as a student and really push to move forward and provide hope not only for myself but for my community of DREAMers who never thought higher education was a possibility and even less that graduate school was a reality.
As I grabbed on to that new found energy, I said “I’m going to do it, I am going to challenge this institution that was not built for my community”. Graduate school was one of the hardest choices to make, my family was struggling financially so I thought to myself, “how can I stress my family for an additional two years when they and my community need me here?” My parents sat me down and said, “you’re going, that’s why we migrated. If you work and help us now we will have failed our mission and you, and you would have failed yourself”. My parents told me that quitting then would have been the easy way out because- yes I could have made money and helped the family out but in the long run, I would eventually start a family and fall into the cycle of poverty. Then I would be stressed trying to care for my family and them because nothing would be secure. At least with a masters degree when a law passed I would be competitive and I would qualify for benefits, get a higher pay and actually stabilize myself and thus contribute to my family and community at a larger rate. It was an investment.
What was your biggest challenge in completing graduate school? Believing that I belonged in graduate school. Moving away from the state that I grew up in was challenging. In graduate school I had to start from the beginning. I had to find my networks, find the people I could confide in, the people that could challenge me, the people that would support and speak up for me in places where I had no voice. That said, having to navigate all the transitions taking place in my life, my family, my new city, and moving through the ignorant and offensive remarks stated in classes and campus spaces about immigrants was definitely hard. I thought to myself “we are in graduate school, how can people in a higher education program, in a school with a social justice mission be so uninformed?” Being in a negative environment hurt my growth and checked me in a way because it made me keep challenging my own negative thoughts and those fed to me and believe that I did belong in graduate school. I survived and thrived by holding on to the hope of the future of my community, my communities’ successes and the thought that I deserved to be there and so did many other of my family and friends. I had to finish so other people could too.
Laura is a scholar activist whose passion for education equity and commitment towards justice has led her to pursue her masters in education. She dedicates the opportunities and communal support she receives to the immigrant community that she is a part of.
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