Sol is an 18-year-old high school graduate who attends San Diego State University. Her mom and dad came to the United States from Mexico, and she was born in California. Her parents have no formal education, but her mother wanted her four daughters to have a better life than she and her father had. Spanish was the only language spoken in their home.
Sol’s next oldest sister was diagnosed as a Special Needs student because she could not keep up with her classmates. But her challenge was not a mental, physical or emotional disability. She simply couldn’t comprehend English.
By the fourth grade, Sol realized it was important for her to master English. That would open the door to more options in her life. By the end of that year, she was proficient in English, and her educational journey was on a fast track.
Sol’s favorite disciplines are science and English. She loves logic and writing. What a combination! Early on, as a child, she faced a decision. Her mother was encouraging her to learn as much as she could, and to accomplish as much as she desired. But her father saw no need for formal education. He thought daughters should be homemakers—nothing more, nothing less.
Her parents couldn’t earn enough money to care for the six children, so on a regular basis, they took their own possessions to a swap meet, and sold them to earn money for food, clothes and rent. Sol cried when her most prized possession—a doll given to her by her grandparents—sold for just one dollar.
Through that painful moment she learned that abundant life is not what a person has, but what a person knows, and who a person becomes.
By her sophomore year, Sol became involved with Talent Search, part of the TRIO program administered by the U.S. Department of Education, and offered through Lutheran Social Services of Southern California. Her counselor at the D.O.E., Ms. Padilla, works for LSS, and her office is in Sol’s San Diego high school.
Talent Search engages students like Sol with information about colleges, urges the students to dream of what they want to do, and then assists them in putting together an educational strategy that helps their dreams become reality. Over time, Sol focused on the science side of her brain and also the compassion side of her heart. She is majoring in biology, and after graduation from college, will enter medical school to become a licensed physician, practicing OBGYN.
There were three pivotal points in Sol’s journey from a Spanish-speaking elementary school student, to becoming a bilingual scholar embarking on a college curriculum. First, she chose to learn English so her world of contacts, networks and resources could be dramatically increased. Second, she accepted her mother’s dream of a better life for her, and rejected her father’s narrow perspective that life is difficult, and all anyone can do is hope to survive.
Third, Sol allowed Ms. Padilla to challenge her, motivate her, expand her horizons and increase her expectations of what hard work, serious study and disciplined research can offer to a dedicated student. Talent Search was a safe space within which to ask questions, and seek guidance and support regarding her goals and dreams. That contact paid off in many ways. One major accomplishment was her applying for, and receiving, a $20,000 Dell Scholarship!
Sol says, “Ms. Padilla always motivated me in my dreams for the future. I never felt judged; I always felt supported. Thank you so much, LSS, for helping me in so many ways.
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