Both my parents immigrated from Jalisco, Mexico. My father, from Arandas, Jalisco came to the United States at the age of seventeen. My mother, from Etzatlan, Jalisco at the age of sixteen. My parents, like many immigrants, left their homeland as young adults for a betterment of life in the United States, and did not have the opportunity to pursue an education. However, even though they were not permitted such an opportunity, my parents took initiative, and made it a point, to show my siblings and me that education was our most powerful form of upward mobility, and it has provided us with our equilibrium.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and through my parents sacrifices was able benefit from private education for all my years of schooling. However, I was the byproduct of humble means, and attended such schools through substantial scholarship and financial assistance.
My father has been a head bus boy for the past 33 years, and had to stop his schooling at the age of 12 to help support his family. Both my parents worked long hours, multiple jobs, at times had difficulty helping me with my homework, and through no fault of their own, producing a college fostering environment away from the classroom couldn’t always be a priority.
My parents did the best they could, where they were, with what they had. Having their example of hard work ethic was my driving factor in pursuit of an education. Being accepted to the University of Southern California (USC) has been one of the proudest moments of my life. However, when I arrived I was culture shocked. Insecurities and disconnect were magnified at the university level. My whole childhood I was raised to work hard; “¡Echale ganas y no te dejes!”, but when I finally arrived to USC I did not know what to do. I began to question my self- worth as a student, and could not understand how to be successful at this level.
It was then when I came across one of my professors, who I met my first semester at USC. Dr. Geroge Sanchez, Vice Dean for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives, and Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity and History; I vividly recall being in his office. Dr. Sanchez began to tell me about his own undergraduate experience, and it was here when I realized, I shared much more commonalities with him than I thought. Here was Dr. Sanchez, who was from the same city, same background, and shared the same experiences of also being a first generation college student. For the first time, I saw my reflection within my professor. He was just like me, and every misconception I carried with me that was rooted in: immigration status, national origin, English as a second language, class, and ethnicity was shattered.
That conversation, and the many more to come with my professor, empowered me, allowed me to realize the opportunity I had, and the kind of platform I could preform from. I began to make sense of the world around me, and began to figure out what I was truly passionate about, serving others. Some of my interests as a student include: education reform, immigration, and social change to name a few.
Hermanas y Hermanos, I have realized: when you devote yourself to an ideal, something that is greater than yourself; you are not alone, you walk with all those who support you, who have invested in you, who believe in you, and most importantly those who you wish to serve most one day. I have learned, being successful is a byproduct of your craft, your passion, or you enthusiasm. It is what happens when you look at the bigger picture, and no longer think in of what is at the surface. To be successful, you have to dig deep, and ask, what drives you?
I could never have done any of this on my own. I have been fortunate enough to have the foundation of what my parents instilled in me, the example of distinguished professors who have dedicated their life’s work towards helping others through their research, and mentors who have invested me, and one day I may aspire to be.
David Hernandez is going to be a senior at the University of Southern California. David is majoring in political science, and American studies & Ethnicity, with a minor in law and public policy. He has been accepted into the 2013 Teach For America Corps, assigned to teach in Los Angeles. Just last year, David was recognized as a White House Champion of Change, by the Obama Administration for my work on education reform. In the future, David plans to attend Harvard University for his graduate degree, where he wishes to complete a dual degree program: MBA/MPP through Harvard Business School, and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He hopes to someday enter the political arena, and be a civil servant for others.