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. 

An Incoming International Harvard Student Has Been Denied Entry To The United States

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An Incoming International Harvard Student Has Been Denied Entry To The United States

Cengiz Yar / Getty Images

The Trump administration’s immigration policies are criminalizing survivors, tearing families apart and emboldening racists and xenophobes throughout the country. But President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration agenda is also negatively impacting higher education in the US. According to multiple recent reports, it has become increasingly difficult for international students to receive their visas, also adding a greater workload on universities and their employees who try to help students work through the red tape and advocate on their behalf.

Those in higher education and immigration law say that the process for international students to attain their visas have become harder under Trump.

 According to government data, approval of student visas is down and many remain in limbo for longer periods. The latest available department data show that student visas declined by more than 100 thousand from 2016 to 2018. This has led to an overall decrease in the number of new international students enrolled at US colleges. For instance, survey data collected by the Institute of International Education during the 2016–17 school year found that enrollment of international students fell by 3 percent from the previous year. In the most recent data, which looks at the 2017–18 school year, it fell by close to 7 percent.

NAFSA: Association of International Educators reports that these visa obstacles started after Trump issued a memorandum in 2017 that called for the “heightened screening and vetting of applications for visas and other immigration benefits” as well as new or updated requirements for visa holders studying or working at US colleges. Additionally, the Atlantic reports that changes initiated by the Trump administration in 2018 made it even harder for recent graduates with student visas to continue living in the country legally. 

“I’ve been in the field for almost 20 years, and the amount of immigration changes during the last three years has been exponential,” Kristy Magner, who oversees Tulane University’s Office of International Students and Scholars, told the publication. 

One of the most high-profile cases was that of Ismail B. Ajjawi

In August of 2019, the incoming Harvard Palestinian freshman from Lebanon was detained by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a Boston airport. The 17-year-old was denied entry after CBO officers found social media posts from his friends that criticize the US. As a result, Ajjawi’s visa was canceled. However, because the teen was detained at an airport, sparing him from being officially deported, he was able to re-apply for a visa back home. Ten days later, Ajjawi returned to Boston and was able to start school.

Also in August, nine Chinese students who were returning to the US as undergraduate students at Arizona State University were detained at Los Angeles International Airport.

 According to the university, the students were in CBP custody for a week and were “denied admission to the U.S. to continue their studies.” They were ultimately forced to return to China, despite being “academically eligible to return to ASU and to the United States under their visas.”

“[I]t is beyond my comprehension how the U.S. government could establish and implement policies that bring about the outcomes we are now witnessing,” ASU president Michael Crow wrote in a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan. 

While these cases are among the most extreme, they follow a growing pattern of increased difficulty for international students. 

Many institutions, including New York University, expressed seeing more students denied travel in advance of their trips.

NYU was one of the first schools to establish support for immigrant students upon the start of Trump’s presidency. In January 2017, just days after Trump’s inauguration, it created the Immigrant Defense Initiative, which offers “free, confidential advice and representation” to students and staff who could be at risk for deportation. Other universities, including Columbia University, the California State University system and George Washington University, now also offer free immigration-related legal services for students. 

But students, and now university employees who are tasked with new responsibilities in helping the international academics, need more help. Back in July, Harvard University president Lawrence Bacow sent a letter to Pompeo and McAleenan sharing his grievances. “Students report difficulties getting initial visas — from delays to denials,” he wrote. “Scholars have experienced postponements and disruptions for what have previously been routine immigra­tion processes such as family visas, renewals of status, or clearance for international travel.”

Dr. Hironao Okahana, associate vice president of policy and research analysis at the Council of Graduate Schools, told Teen Vogue the rise in incidents like Ajjawi’s are concerning and worth further investigation. 

“[W]e’ll be carefully observing to see if any additional incidents occur as quarter-system schools begin their term in a few weeks,” he said.

In addition to the denial of visas and slowed-down processes, universities face another problem: Trump’s anti-immigration agenda is stopping international students from applying to US institutions. 

“I think that both [the Trump administration’s] immigration policy and the messaging of the day are literally turning [international] students away … and making them less inclined to want to study in the United States,” Brian Rosenberg, the president of Macalester College, a liberal-arts institution in St. Paul, Minnesota, told the Atlantic.

As a result, some schools are doing additional work to ensure international students that they are welcome at their universities.

Philip A. Glotzbach, the president of Skidmore College, told the Atlantic that his staff has had to “work a lot harder” to recruit and retain international students. Additionally, Barbara K. Altmann, the president of Franklin & Marshall College, said that her school has been taking “extraordinary measures … so international students know [they’re welcome here].” For instance, because one in five students at the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, liberal-arts school is from outside of the US, mostly China, it has created a network of Chinese nationals that send reassuring messages to incoming students from the Asian country. 

“These incidents,” said Okahana, “as isolated as they may be, are troubling and have created chilling effects.”

Read: Migrants Are Dying In US Immigration Custody And Here’s What You Need To Know About The Victims

Latino Students In The US Will Soon Be Able To Get A Scholarship For College Thanks To Maná

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Latino Students In The US Will Soon Be Able To Get A Scholarship For College Thanks To Maná

You could say “Oye Mi Amor” is a Latino theme song just as much as Selena’s “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” and Juan Gabriel’s “Amor Eterno.” The song is a musical staple in Latino households because we’ve grown up listening to Maná. For anyone not familiar with Maná, they’re basically the Bon Jovi of Mexico. This rock band from Guadalajara could be considered an extended part of the family because they’re always being played a quinceñearas, parties, weddings, you name it. So, it’s only natural that Maná helps to pay for important milestone moments in our lives since they are a part of the family.

Maná announced that they are giving away a $10,000 scholarship to 15 Latino students between the ages of 18 to 35. 

Credit: @soytapatia / Twitter

The band, along with Selva Negra Environmental Foundation, and the Univision Foundation, has started the Maná Scholarship Program. As we said, the scholarship will benefit up to 15 Latino students between the ages of 18 to 35 by helping them achieve their dream of furthering their education. 

So who can apply for this scholarship? Anyone who has contributed in a positive way to their community. 

Credit: @UniNoticias / Twitter

According to the site, “These scholarships are intended to help applicants who have a demonstrated commitment to positive change in their communities; specifically, those who have chosen to help clean up or otherwise improve the environment around them.” They also state that the “scholarship is open to high school seniors or graduates and to current college undergraduates who are either U.S. citizens, legal residents of the U.S., or undocumented residents of the U.S., including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and applications will be received and reviewed from September 9th through October 23rd, 2019.”

Yes, undocumented immigrants will be considered for this scholarship!

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The only documents students should submit to be eligible is “current, complete transcript of grades. Grade reports are not accepted. Unofficial or online transcripts must display student name, school name, grades and credit hours for each course, and term in which each course was taken.” 

While there’s certainly a lot of scholarships available for Latinos, it’s so rare to have those options available for undocumented people. They’re in this country too, and contributing in so many ways. 

There is one issue that people on social media have with this scholarship. It is only available to Latinos in the United States and not in Mexico.

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As we noted before, in order to be eligible for this scholarship, they must be “U.S. citizens, legal residents of the U.S., or undocumented residents of the U.S., including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients.” One person on Instagram said, “But why only the USA? In Latin America, we also have young people wanting opportunities.” Another said, “Why does Mana make more noise in the Latino population of the U.S than in Mexico?” One added, “They should have done this in first in Mexico.”

We do think it’s highly odd that a Mexican band would not have a separate scholarship for Mexican students. However, who knows, the more people inquire about it, there could be a chance that the band will see that it would only be fair to offer a scholarship to Mexican fans too. We’re certain they, Selva Negra, and Univision has more money to spare especially if that means giving the opportunity of higher education. 

Some people are already applying and showing Maná what they’re all about. 

Credit: @Ximenas79772490 / Twitter

We think this is a great opportunity for Latinos in the U.S. who have been working hard to make a positive difference in their community and give their all every day. There are so many young people who have done an incredible amount of work especially within the activism realm who should show off their accomplishments. 

If you really want to get the attention of Maná we would highly suggest going to their next concert with a sign that says “I deserve your scholarship!”

Credit: manaoficial / Instagram

It doesn’t hurt to try. 

The band is currently on tour in the United States, so here’s your chance! They have several dates coming up in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Jose, San Diego, Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, El Paso, Houston, Fresno. They are seriously touring nonstop. Click here to check out their next tour dates, and for more information on the scholarship, click here

READ: Here Are Maná 13 Best Songs To Celebrate Their Upcoming Billboard Lifetime Achievement Award