Cruz Garibay

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I never thought I would have the chance to complete high school, much less attend college. My story is similar to those of many immigrants who come to the United States (U.S.) in hopes of a better future. The majority of my life, I was raised without my father. In order to provide for his family, my father risked his life crossing the U.S. México border illegally. Coming from México, he was exposed to all the opportunities that were available for those who lived in the U.S., especially those who earned an education.

After a few years of living in the U.S., he was able to apply for residency through his work and this enabled us, his wife and kids, to also be eligible for residency. I came to the U.S. when I was five-years old not knowing a word of English. School was hard at first because I remember being put in classes where I didn’t understand what the teacher or other kids were saying. For a while this made me hate school. It wasn’t until I was able to speak English fluently that I started to not only do better academically, but socially as well.

As my education continued, especially in high school, I started hearing more about the possibility of attending college. I was fortunate enough to see my older sister go through the process of applying to college and setting the foundation. We were both privileged when it came to the process of applying for college because the high school we attended had a college success center. This was a place where students went to receive help when it came to the college process. The faculty here took students on college campus tours, attended conferences about receiving a higher education, and provided waivers for college applications, ACT’s, and SAT’s. Looking back, if I didn’t have these resources, my college application process and transition would have been very hard to navigate.

I am now in my third-year attending the University of Washington Bothell. I am pursuing a double degree in Health Studies and Business Administration, with a minor in Human Rights. As I look at my trajectory from where I started to where I am now, I noticed that even though there were always barriers, I never let them stop me. I could have easily taken the easier route, applied for a job after graduating high school and make a living that way. What drove me to do otherwise was the thought of my father risking his life for my future and how it was always his dream to see me and my siblings graduate from college. Whenever school work seems unbearable or classes seem to have no end, I think back to my dad and those who never received the opportunity to earn a higher education. The least I can do for not only my family, but my community as a whole, is to prove that although statistics show that first generation students are amongst the first to drop out of colleges or universities, nothing is impossible with hard work and determination.