Things That Matter

How My Teacher’s Discouragement Didn’t Stop Me From Getting to UCLA

I never imagined myself avoiding science classrooms…I loved science. But nowadays, unless I’m giving a campus tour, you won’t see me at UCLA’s Court of Sciences. My dreams changed. Today, I want to make sure students aren’t shunned away from their dreams by their teachers like I was.

My first year in high school was tough. I found myself struggling to grasp math and science as easily as I did in middle school. I never left a classroom understanding the lesson I had listened to for the past hour. I didn’t give up. Instead, I pushed out of my comfort zone to work even harder. I studied hard and asked friends to tutor me. My efforts paid off, I managed to keep my grades at an A each semester.

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Credit: Bernardette Pinetta

My struggle didn’t go unnoticed by teachers. When I mentioned how I wanted to do something in science and math because I really liked both subjects one of them responded, “It’s one thing to like math and another thing to be good at it.” My heart sank.

For the first time, I stopped trying. I stopped looking to my teachers for help. I waited until the last minute to study. It didn’t make sense to me to give something my full effort if I wasn’t being supported. My math grade dropped a D…and my parents blamed it on having a boyfriend.

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Credit: Bernardette Pinetta

The disappointment in their eyes and voice reminded me of why I had worked so hard before. I remember the sacrifices they made and the physical and mental suffering they endured to give my sister and me a better chance. I had to do something.

I retook tests and started studying again. By the end of the year, I got A+ both semesters. This made me look forward to college and the opportunity to study math and science there…but I could still hear that teachers words in my mind.

College wasn’t better.

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Credit: Bernardette Pinetta

Professors would begin their introductions by saying two-thirds of us would fail. Each time I struggled I thought, “Maybe he was right; maybe I’m just not good enough. Maybe I’m part of those two-thirds.”

I changed my major to political science after barely passing a chemistry class. I also focused on mentoring high school students. That, along with my love for increasing access to higher education for marginalized students and improving the quality of education received in low-income areas, drove me to pick up an Education Minor.

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Credit: Bernardette Pinetta

When I learned about the systematic oppression that keeps students from going into STEM fields, my experience finally made sense. I saw myself in the students I worked with through UCLA’s Early Academic Outreach Program, students with such high potential being told that they wouldn’t amount to much because of the stigma attached to their background.

It ends with me. I’m here. I will provide motivation…and the biggest surprise, is it’s a two-way street. These high school students give me inspiration to not give up, regardless of the obstacles placed in my way.

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Credit: Bernardette Pinetta

The need for education advocates in communities like mine keeps me focused on my studies. For the students I work with who wish to go to STEM fields, I tell them that it will be difficult, but if they are passionate and have that desire to be in those careers, there’s no way they won’t make it.

I never went back to my science major, not because of the discouragement I received, but because I have a newfound passion in education. I’m also happy to say that the last science class I took at UCLA I earned an A, because this time I didn’t give up.

What’s your story? Share it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #WeAreAmerica and don’t forget to like us on Facebook to see more inspirational stories like this one. 

A 13-Year-Old Student Just Became A California College’s Youngest Graduate

Things That Matter

A 13-Year-Old Student Just Became A California College’s Youngest Graduate

@WBTV_News /twitter

Thirteen-year-old Jack Rico might not be able to drive but he’s going full speed ahead when it comes to his education.

The California-based teenager has wracked up a handful of college degrees under belt including an associate’s degree from Fullerton College which he earned this week.

Rico’s latest degree makes him officially the youngest graduate student from the community college.

Rico started taking college courses at the age of eleven and has since spent his time earning different degrees. “It has been a pure joy having Jack as a son and I couldn’t be any prouder of him,” Ru Andrade told People magazine in a recent interview.

It turns out, Rico has loved learning for years now, proving himself to be, as his mother describes “not your average kid.” When Rico was just 3 years old when he took a visit to the White House for his 4th birthday. “I told him that was a big trip for a little guy, and that I would take him if he could learn all the presidents,” she explained in an interview. “A week later he said, ‘Mom, I have a confession to make. I already knew all the presidents, but I learned all the vice presidents if that will still count?'”

According to Andrade, Rico actually had a rough start to his education.

Rico started his education in public school but struggled with the work until his mother decided to have him homeschooled when he was in third grade so that he could focus on his areas of weakness.

“When he was 11, I knew he needed more of a challenge and a better teacher than me,” Andrade explained. To do so she enrolled Rico in Fullerton College’s Bridge Program. “He started out just taking one class and he absolutely loved it. He just kept requesting taking more and more classes.”

While Rico won’t be able to attend a traditional graduation ceremony to celebrate his achievements this year due to coronavirus restrictions, his family has planned a special drive-by event in La Mirada to celebrate.

Turns, out four degrees, isn’t enough for Rico.

Rico is due to attend the University of Nevada this coming fall on a full scholarship. He’ll take classes Monday through Wednesday, and will commute. He reportedly will focus his studies on history.

“Jack is not a genius, he just works really hard. We are so happy for Jack and all his academic accomplishments, however, he is an even more awesome human being. He has a sister with autism that he has just been an amazing brother too,” Andrade explained.

Check out a video about Rico and his achievements below.

Selena Gomez Offered A Special Commencement Speech To Immigrads Celebrating Their Special Achievement

Entertainment

Selena Gomez Offered A Special Commencement Speech To Immigrads Celebrating Their Special Achievement

selenagomez / Instagram

It is graduation season and Covid-19 has changed how we conduct graduation ceremonies. This year, few high school seniors will be able to walk across the stage as states and counties protect their health and offer graduation alternatives. Celebrities have stepped up to give these seniors special commencement speeches.

Selena Gomez wanted to give immigrads a special commencement speech honoring their experience.

“Congratulations to all of the Immigrads,” Gomez says int he video. “I know that this is a virtual ceremony, but it is very real and it is very real to all of the families, and all of you, and your communities. I want you guys to know that you matter and that your experiences are a huge part of the American story.”

Gomez used her speech to connect with the immigrant graduates by relating to their stories.

“When my family came here from Mexico, they set into motion my American story, as well as theirs,” Gomez says. “I’m a proud third-generation American-Mexican, and my family’s journey and their sacrifices helped me get me to where I am today. Mine is not a unique story. Each and every one of you have a similar tale of becoming an American.”

Gomez gave her address for Define American, an immigrant-led organization.

Define American “is a narrative and culture change organization that uses media and the power of storytelling to transcend politics and shift the conversation about immigrants, identity, and citizenship in a changing America,” reads the website.

Gomez fans are here to support the singer and her speech.

Gomez has used her platform to confront major topics in American politics and society. She produced “13 Reasons Why” to enter the conversation about teenage suicide and has used her social media platform to celebrate undocumented immigrants chasing the American Dream.

Gomez ended her speech giving all of the immigrads some words of encouragement.

“So, regardless of where your family is from, regardless of your immigration status, you have taken action to earn an education, to make your families proud, and to open up your worlds,” Gomez says. “So, I’m sending all of my love to you guys today, and congratulations, and I hope that you guys are set off to be everything that you want to be.”

READ: TV Special “Graduate Together” Gave The Class Of 2020 A Special Send-Off