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As A Mountain Breaking Through the Clouds of Discrimination: Rising Above Detrimental Experiences I come from a single parent home and grew up and went to school in a Midwestern city. Since I was a little girl I was responsible to care for my three younger sisters while my mother went to work at jobs where she was made to feel that she was only worth the type of low paying job she was performing. Even though I was in elementary school and because I could speak English, I had the responsibility to be the liaison between my mother and the world we lived in. At this young age I found myself experiencing the personification of discrimination through my mother s experiences. My own personal experience with the different forms of discrimination became apparent when, as an 8th grader, I began to plan my 9th grade courses. My mentor instilled in me the importance of taking the right courses and how these would benefit and prepare me for college. When I approached the guidance counselor about the types of math I wanted to take, her question to me was, Why do you want to take hard math ? As a youngster, and because my mother did not speak English, I did not know that I had a right to not accept this statement nor did I know what my resources were. My mentor told me that we would continue to pursue the right math courses and that we would make the changes at the high school. When we went to the high school that I would be attending and spoke to the guidance counselors there, their response to me was You don t need advanced math to get into college, it s not necessary . What they chose not to tell me was how greatly my chances of getting into college and getting scholarships would diminish when compared to other students who have pursued a college track. These forms of discrimination impelled me to equip myself educationally so that I would not have to depend on others to make my decisions. With this is mind, I got involved in school activities, became a member of the National Honor Society, was the only Hispanic member of the student council, and distinguished myself as a leader in the school as well as in the community. Three community activities that impacted me the most to reach this goal are: Latino Achievement Mentoring Program (LAMP), Bilingual English Speaking Tutors (BEST) program, and Las Razas Unidas Club. LAMP has impacted me by matching me with a mentor who has guided me towards success. The BEST program has impacted me because it reminds me of me, when I tutor students, and my own experiences when I was introduced to the English language. These young students are reminders of difficulties non-English speaking students face in school due to language barriers. As a student in elementary school I was assigned to English Language Learners (ELL) classes and encountered difficult times when trying to do my homework when I didn t understand something because I did not understand the language. I get immense satisfaction when I tutor because I know that I am empowering the young students and giving them the tools they will need when encountering discrimination. In Las Razas Unidas Club at my high school I took on the role of president in my senior year. I used this position to motivate other students to give back to their community by


volunteering to perform community service. This position of leadership also facilitated my ability to inspire other students to pursue education passed high school. I removed the blindfolding obstacles many students had by explaining to them the importance of education and by persuading so many friends to graduate and go on to college, compared to previous years. And why, might you ask, have I been so adamant to pursue this trajectory? The reason is because I know that one of the strongest tools a person can have against discrimination is their education. Education has been used as an enemy towards me by others who have it, and have used its power in their favor. By this, I refer to the counselors who knew that I had a choice to follow a path of academic achievement, but they had the higher power to persuade me into a decision that would make me academically weak in comparison to other students in school and other persons in the world. As I have demonstrated, education is a form of empowerment that can be used for the good of overcoming discrimination or for evil by discriminating against those who don t know their rights. People who experience discrimination usually succumb due to a lack of knowledge. With my education I see two goals in life: (1) giving back to the community by working with populations that are susceptible to different forms of discrimination and helping to foster in them the importance of education, and (2) having a positive impact on those who discriminate by contributing to their knowledge about the evils of discrimination. My future plans are to major in psychology and continue on to law school. The seeds of knowledge that I gain will be allowed to grow and bear fruit. It has been and will continue to be my mission in life to empower other Latinos, young and old, so that they too will overcome the different forms of discrimination they face.


Karina Ruiz- Vargas Essay