This I Believe
By Ted Martinez
I believe an education is an important thing. I live in a small border town in Southern Arizona. We have lots of lettuce fields, a few military bases and a lot of border patrol agents. Recently I was picking up my dog from the kennel, the woman behind the counter was figuring my bill and asked “are you military?’’ I shook my head no. “Are you border patrol” she asked?
“Fire or police?” She was trying to give me a ten percent discount on my kennel fees.
I replied, “I’m an educator.”
She paused to think about my response and said, “that’s important too,” and gave me the ten percent discount anyway.
My grandfather also believed in the value an education, in part because he didn’t have the opportunity to stay in school. He grew up during the depression and worked in the orange groves of southern CA starting at age nine. “Stay in school mijito,” he would say. “I never had the chance to.” Neither my mother nor father attended a university. My father had no college credit while my mother took community college courses and earned a beauticians license. She never worked as a beautician during my life, instead she worked as a bank teller. I did as my grandfather suggested and stayed in school and earned a bachelors then a masters.
Now I teach college biology and environmental science to mostly Hispanic students not more than thirty miles from the Mexico border. I, myself am Hispanic and part of the group that has come to be known as “a first generation college graduate.” This means that no one in my house hold graduated college before me. It means that I had to find the route my self in order to first get to college, then get through college, pay my way, study, graduate, then do it all over again. There is no one road map for that process and there are many potential detours and hazards along the way. Every person is left to navigate that journey on their own and with the help of family and friends.
I still hear my grandfathers voice saying, “stay in school mijito.” I believe he wanted me to utilize the opportunities that he never had, to have the opportunity to work with my brain and not with my back should I choose to. In his wisdom he recognized the importance of an education. He saw that it would open doors for me that were never open to him.
I echo his words to my own classes. “Stay in school” I say, “and follow your dreams. Make the most of the opportunities your families have provided for you”. I am hoping they too will be first generation college graduates, make the most of their opportunities and make their families proud.
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