I remember always being told what I could not be. Since I am an immigrant, I was told at a very early age what I shouldn't aspire to be. I lived in Chicago for eight months where an elementary school in Winnetka let me be part of the first grade class although technically I was too young. When I moved to Miami I was made to repeat first grade because the teachers couldn't believe I had learned English in eight months, although none of them actually spoke to me. While in elementary school I had to defiantly rebel in order to not be put in an ESL (English as Second Language) program. I rebelled because I already knew English and I knew if I was put in ESL I would fall behind the other students. Although I won student council secretary in the third grade, the school refused to allow me to test for the gifted program until the fourth grade. My mother and I were constantly told, not to expect for me to continue to get good grades in middle school because it would be much harder. I won student council president in fifth grade, it was my way of telling Miami Lakes Elementary I would always overcome their expectations.
I remember in middle school at Doral Middle the teachers had an intervention with my mother due to their concern regarding my behavior. I was taking the hardest classes they had to offer, excelling at them and all the teachers wanted to talk about was that I was flirtatious and friends with older students. When I moved to Minnesota and went to West Hopkins Junior High, I wasn't allowed to take advanced math because I had never seen geometry. I was immediately labeled as problematic because I was Latina and did not look like the rest of the student body. Again my mother was told to not expect too much because it was obvious I wouldn't be able to keep up with the curriculum.
In high school I was finally given some freedom to take AP (Advanced Placement) classes for college credits. The first test I took was in US History, the teacher once told me in front of the whole class I looked like a prostitute because I had on light pink heels. I got a 5 on the AP US History exam, the highest possible score, you only need a 3 to pass. I also had an English Composition teacher tell me that I didn't know how to write, I would never be a good writer and I would probably not be able to pass the AP English Composition exam. I got a 5 on the English Composition exam.
In life I have constantly been told not to reach too high or expect too much because I will fail. For years that weighed on me, I began to doubt myself and what I could accomplish. I learned what perseverance meant when I competed in national circuit Lincoln Douglas debate in high school. I was nationally ranked and in the top tier for Minnesota my junior and senior year but none of that really mattered. In debate I started to read complex philosophical texts that radically changed my mentality. I realized that no one would ever be able to make me feel stupid or inferior because I was able to understand very complex ideology and coherently explain it. I didn't need to be the smartest person in the room, but I learned how to keep up with the conversation or at least ask the right questions in order to follow the discussion. Debate was the turning point in my life because it showed me, if I could explain my point eloquently it would never matter what I looked like. I learned more during two weeks of debate camp than I ever learned in high school.
Now I look at challenges differently, I no longer allow what people may perceive of me to impact my perception of myself. I take my time to understand what is at stake then try to plot a cautious intelligent course using all the resources at my disposal. I persevere not only because I exceed expectations but because I don't allow for expectations to define my goals or outcomes. I hold myself to very high standards and I work every day to attain those standards. I understand I may not always be the best, I accept I will make mistakes but I will always try again and I will never sacrifice my ethical standards.