Culture

From Diapers To Dorms, I Worked Hard To Make Sure My Baby Sister Could Go To College

As a first generation college student, as well as the first person in my family to be born in the United States, there was many things I had to figure out on my own.

The author (left) and her sister. Photo credit: Betsy Aimee

When it came to college it always felt like there was an assumption that all parents knew a lot about the process and were heavily involved; That they were signing me up for SAT classes, flying across the country with me to look at colleges and had a vast network of friends that were ready to offer me internships.

They supported me in many other ways and cultivated in me a desire to pursue higher education, but for the most part I was their window into the mainstream “American” world, so their ability to help was limited.

It was a blessing to be so self-reliant at a young age but at the same time I carried many things in isolation and there was an emotional toll that took on me. I’m not complaining, as I have lived a life of privilege and opportunity that many people, my parents included, could only have dreamed of.

Because of this it always felt like I couldn’t burden my parents with my “problems” when they worked so hard to provide me with housing and transportation, and the occasional luxury. It’s not that my parents didn’t care, they just didn’t know what they didn’t know. It would have been great to have an adult, or older sibling to offer me support at that stage of my life.

My sister was born when I was 16 years old. I realized that life had given me a special opportunity. As the oldest daughter to our father who emigrated from rural Mexico to the United States decades before, I felt like I was her official guide to first-gen life.

The author’s sister. Photo credit: Betsy Aimee

When I was in college, in between class, work, friends and boys, I would pick her up in my shiny, red Mustang. I didn’t always have tons of money, but I tried to expose her to as many things as I could. I would take her to the Festival of Books at UCLA and we’d walk around local universities. On trips we would drive through schools and talk about what her life would be like when she was a young woman.

When she was in elementary school I read an essay she had written. In it she said that I was her role model. It was a stark reminder to be better, and do better. After all, my sister was watching.

When I graduated from college with honors she was 8 years old. My dad pulled her and my brother out of school to attend my commencement ceremony. I remember her sitting on the bleachers in her pink dress looking up at me proudly. She told me later that was the moment she knew she wanted to go to college too!

As she got older, we talked about the fact that so very few Latinx people actually graduate from college, and that while not everyone needs college to be successful, education is an important way to advance our entire community. I told her that seeking to be the best people we could be was a way to honor the sacrifices of our father and her mother (my stepmother).

As she went through middle school and the early years of high school, we talked about classes she could take that would put her on the “college track.” I am sure sometimes it felt more like I was an annoying helicopter mom than a cool older sister. I also made sure to be honest about mistakes I made, and things I didn’t know then that I wish I had known.

Last year, I helped her write her essays for her college applications. In the midst of my own crazy life, which now includes a child of my own, I always tried to set aside time to be there for her when she needed me.

When she started getting her acceptances, I cried. We went to look at colleges together earlier this year.

The author and her sister at her sister’s high school graduation. Photo credit: Betsy Aimee

After some debate, she decided on Mount Saint Mary’s College near home in Los Angeles. Then she announced she would be living in the dorms. I reassured my father that this was a tremendous opportunity for her to immerse herself in the culture of the university and be focused on her studies. When she needed to appeal her financial aid award, of course, I wrote it.

We went shopping for her dorm supplies together and part of me was super excited she was going to have the experience I never had. That is the thing about being a first generation big sister, like a parent, you want things for your siblings that you couldn’t have for yourself.

I also told her something that I wish someone had told me at her age. I told her that she is more than the sum of her accomplishments; that the determination and ethics that had gotten her to college would carry her through life no matter what happened.

I told her this because I also know that there is a particular type of guilt that plagues first-generation kids like us. We feel like we will never fully repay our parents for our sacrifices and we can punish ourselves harshly for any mistakes we make.

Recently, my family and I, including my father, brother and stepmother, moved her into her dorm. It was a bittersweet moment because, in my mind, she’s still a little girl looking up at me with wonder. But looking at me now is a bright, level-headed, hard-working young woman moving towards her future with the hopes of all her ancestors resting on her shoulders.

Photo credit: Betsy Aimee

As we walked back to the car my dad told me, “You should have more children. I would be having a much harder time letting go of your sister if I didn’t have you and your brother too.” I said, “Dad, what are you talking about? This one counts as one of mine too.”

While my sister has learned from me, being her big sister opened up a doorway to love and understanding the importance of mentorship for first generation kids.

After all, It is up to us who have paved the way to make sure we are leaving the door open for everyone coming behind us.


READ: While Homesickness During College Is Hard Enough As It Is, This Latino Student Explains Why It’s Been Even More Difficult For Him

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Naya Rivera’s Dad Says ‘Glee’ Showrunner Ryan Murphy Lied About Setting Up a College Fund for Her Son, Josey

Entertainment

Naya Rivera’s Dad Says ‘Glee’ Showrunner Ryan Murphy Lied About Setting Up a College Fund for Her Son, Josey

Photos via Getty Images

Months after Naya Rivera’s untimely passing, her family is still struggling to cope with the aftermath of her death. Although there was an outpouring of well-wishes and condolences after Rivera’s tragic drowning, many people have unfortunately moved on. But Rivera’s family is still coping.

On Tuesday, Naya Rivera’s father, George Rivera, slammed “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy for making “broken promises” to Rivera’s son, Josey.

Last July, Murphy pledged to set up a college fund for Josey. In a statement, Murphy said: ““Our hearts go out to her family, especially her mom, Yolanda, who was a big part of the Glee family, and her son Josey. The three of us are currently in the process of creating a college fund for the beautiful son Naya loved most of all.”

But since then, George Rivera has vented his frustration at the media mogul via Twitter. In response to a July, 2020 tweet that praised Ryan Murphy for his generosity, George Rivera wrote: “Everyone needs to know what Ryan Murphy really did … or didn’t do !!! I’m about to blow up this story …. and make sure he’s knows that I know ….”

In subsequent tweets, George Rivera accused Ryan Murphy both of faking his grief over Naya’s death and lying about setting up a college fund for Josey.

“When you are part of the Hollywood elite, some people treat others as they are “less than” …. vocalize a good game , but it’s as shallow as the sets on stage , that they create,” Rivera wrote. “Promises made in public, only to fade with time and excuses …. even in a unexplainable tragedy …”

Soon enough, fans of Naya Rivera began to engage with George Rivera, asking him to disclose what happened behind the scenes. One zealous fan wrote “Let it out, G. Let it out,” to which Rivera responded, “Broken Promises….. fake outrage …. hollow gestures ….. no phone call.”

George Rivera’s accusations against Ryan Murphy shocked many fans who had thought that her son would be taken care of by the ultra-successful producer.

Looking for clarification, one fan asked, “Did they never open the trust fund for josey? omg,” to which George responded, “Hahaaaa.” His response the initial veiled accusation.

In response to George’s accusations, many “Glee” fans rallied around the grieving father. “If you have anything else please do share,” wrote one Naya Rivera fan account. “We’re going to listen and make sure you have the platform to share whatever that awful man said and did to you and your family, we’re with you.”

Ryan Murphy quickly took to Twitter to address the allegations and defend himself–albeit vaguely.

“Myself, Brad Falchuk, and Ian Brennan have committed to create a college fund for Naya Rivera’s child Josey through the Naya Rivera Estate Trust,” Murphy wrote. “We have been in repeated conversations with the appropriate executors of her estate.”

Based on Murphy’s use of the word “committed”, it does, indeed, sound like he hasn’t actually started the fund yet. We hope he keeps his promise and starts that very soon.

Regardless, we’re glad that George Rivera was brave enough to call out Hollywood power players that were letting his family down.

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These Long-Time Best Friends Just Found Out They’re Biological Sisters

Things That Matter

These Long-Time Best Friends Just Found Out They’re Biological Sisters

Photo via Cassandra Raquel Madison/Facebook

We’ve all had those friends that are so close to us that they feel like they’re family. Well, in the case of these of two Connecticut women who had the same feeling, that ended up being the case.

Best friends Julia Tinetti and Cassandra Madison learned that they were biological sisters, adopted from the Dominican Republic.

The story is stranger than fiction. Julia and Madison met in 2013, when they both worked at a bar called The Russian Lady in New Haven, Connecticut. The women immediately bonded when they discovered that they both had tattoos of the Dominican Republic’s flag.

Cassandra rehashed the meeting via a Facebook post: “Julia notices the Dominican flag on my arm and makes a comment about how she’s Dominican too BUT she’s adopted from there. I stop her in her tracks and tell her I’m adopted from there too.”

“After that moment, we were so tight,” Julia told Good Morning America. “We started hanging out. We would go out for drinks, for dinner. We started dressing alike.”

Apparently, Cassandra felt the same way. “I thought she was cool,” Cassandra said to GMA. “We just kind of hit it off right away. It was very natural.”

According to them, coworkers were always telling them that they looked like sisters. But when the two of them cross-referenced their birth certificate, their information didn’t add up.

“Papers said we were from two different cities [with] different last names,” Julia explained. “And, our mothers’ names on our paperwork were different.” But the two women believed they were somehow connected–they just didn’t know how.

The mystery finally began to unravel after Cassandra took a 23andMe DNA test.

Through 23andMe’s genetic database, Cassandra tracked down her biological family in the Dominican Republic through a first cousin. She then traveled to the DR where she met her bio-family for the first time–an incredibly emotionally experience. While Cassandra’s bio-father was still alive, her bio-mother had passed away in 2015 from a heart attack.

Years later, Cassandra finally pressed her bio-father on whether or not he had put up another child for adoption. While at first he was hesitant to talk about the painful memory, he finally admitted that he had, indeed, put another child up for adoption years ago.

It was then that Cassandra finally urged Julia to take a DNA test so they could finally put their questions to rest.

The results came back on January 28th, 2021 and finally confirmed what they had long suspected: they were biological sisters.

The entire ordeal has been both thrilling, joyful, and emotionally taxing for the women. At times, it has even been bittersweet, considering the trauma their biological family endured in the past.

“On top of the DR being a very poor country, [our family] couldn’t take care of us,” Julia explained. “I was [born] 17 months later and they weren’t ready.”

All in all, Julia summed up how she feels about the situation in a very direct way: “This is the type of thing you see on TV.”

We couldn’t agree more!

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