Months ago, traveling to Washington, D.C., seemed unbelievable to me, but recently this is exactly what I did. I am a rising senior from Avenal, California, and I want to someday be part of the government to make a change. So, thanks to the Ivy League Project – a program that encourages economically disadvantaged students to apply to the most prestigious universities in America – I was able to travel across the country to visit the Department of Education and several famous schools along the East Coast.
We visited many interesting and famous places where I was able to expand my knowledge about this country’s history. While in D.C., I not only got to tour the Department of Education’s headquarters, but I met the Secretary of Education! It was an honor and a privilege – and this experience was especially powerful for me because I am a student who comes from a low-income family and never pictured myself in that position. Secretary King was more than humble. It felt like I was speaking to a person whom I had known for years. It was a dream come true – and a dream that I never thought I would achieve. We spoke to Secretary King about our struggles that keep us up at night. He was very nice and open with us. His kindness was very meaningful.
After visiting with the Secretary, I had the amazing experience of stepping foot on the most prestigious universities in the world: Georgetown University, American University, Swarthmore College, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brown University, Yale University, Columbia University, Boston University, Princeton University, and Lawrenceville School.
The “university vibe” that traveled through my skin as I walked through the campus made this more than just a motivational trip. It was eye opening. As we continued our tour, I realized that the impossible was possible. In one week I made my dream come true! I traveled to the East Coast and fell in love with this part of the country.
As a first generation, low-income, migrant student, it has been a very long journey. It’s been a ride that started the day I arrived in this country from Mexico to further my education. I have lived here 11 years now and it’s been a challenge. I’ve struggled with knowing that my family doesn’t have as much money as others. I also sometimes worry that I will fail to make my parents proud.
I love education I love learning, but I do feel pressure to do great things because my parents sacrificed so much for me. I live in a house with two rooms and there are six of us. It has been very rough growing up, because as a teen you need your privacy — something I don’t have. That was one of many sacrifices, that although seems like something so small, had an impact. Although I have been through many obstacles, I have never given up or victimized myself. I have conquered my struggles and I have embraced who I am.
I am not afraid to say I am a low-income, first generation, Latina migrant student that has dreams ahead to complete.
Yesenia Solis is a rising senior at Avenal High School in Avenal, California.