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How Noemi Valdez Went From Only Hoping to Sell Raspados to Becoming a Harvard Student

I didn’t know that I wanted to go to college. I didn’t even know that it existed or what its value was. I remember when people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would say, “I wanted to sell raspados.” Yes, you read that right, sell shaved ice.

I’m from the very poor city of Mexicali in Mexico. I was never exposed to revolutionary jobs or careers. I never wanted to be an astronaut, a lawyer, or an engineer. Never anything so ambitious. But that all changed when my family and I immigrated to the United States.

Credit: Noemi Valdez

Nine years after the journey across the border, I will call Harvard my new home where I will begin working toward degrees in applied mathematics and archeology. I will take a suitcase packed with fears, nostalgia, and hope — a replica of what my parents and I packed when we immigrated to the United States — and attend this Ivy League School.

I cannot deny the fact that there is a tremendous amount of pressure on me to succeed. As ironic as it sounds, the same amount of pressure is on me to fail. I know that as an immigrant, minority, first-generation student, and female attending Harvard, I am breaking norms, standards, and defined regimes that have been imbedded in my culture for decades.

Credit: Noemi Valdez

There are many lessons that I have learned. One of the ones with the most impact has been the fear of failure. This feeling digs deep down into your skin and arises only to inhibit greatness from being able to shine through. The fear of receiving a rejection letter was the one that almost stopped me from applying to the university I will now be attending. If I had not pressed “submit” on my application that day, I would not have the opportunity to reach thousands of aspiring students who share my same story. I have learned that living with failure is easier than living with regret.

Credit: Noemi Valdez

I know that many people want more out of life…I am one of them. I want to succeed not because I have hundreds of eyes on me but because I have hundreds of hearts with me — those of my sister, my neighbors, cousins, and those in my community.

Nine years ago, I left a trail of tears. Tears that followed me all the way to the United States. These were tears of extreme sadness at having to leave my family and my life. Now that I think about it, those tears have become tears of joy. Tears of gratitude towards my parents for allowing me to have what had been ripped away from them, a college education.

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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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This Latino In His Sixties Spent Half Of His Life Behind Bars, Now He’s Graduating College With Honors

Things That Matter

This Latino In His Sixties Spent Half Of His Life Behind Bars, Now He’s Graduating College With Honors

Photo via Facebook/Miguel de la Rosa

Once in a while, a story comes along that makes you realize that the phrase “you can do anything you put your mind to”, isn’t just an old cliche. One California Latino man proved that the phrase has some truth behind it.

62-year-old Joseph Valadez just graduated with honors from Cal State Long Beach after spending the half of his adult life behind bars.

Valadez’s story went viral when one of his fellow students tweeted about the California Latino man’s incredible story. “This man accomplished something incredible AND took the coldest pic of 2021,” said that caption.

The post is a screenshot of a Facebook post Valadez wrote, accompanied by some stunning graduation photos of the 62-year-old.

“I finished my last two semester at Long Beach on the ‘President’s Honor List’ for making straight As,” wrote Valadez on the CSULB alumni Facebook group. “Was also on the Dean’s List with a GPA of 3.67. Not bad for someone who spent half his adult life in prison.”

“There’s a misconception about guys like me that I want to break,” he added. “If I can do it, anyone can.”

Since the picture went viral, Valadez opened up about the journey that took him from rock bottom to where he is now.

Like many people in the prison system, addiction fueled Valadez’s life of crime. In an interview with Long Beach Post, he revealed that he began using heroine when he first joined the army at the age of 18.

“All the crimes I did were related to trying to get drugs, selling drugs,” the California Latino man told the Long Beach Post. He would spend 38 years of his life battling addiction.

After that, his life spiraled into a cycle of addiction, homelessness, violence, and crime. In total, Valadez has been to prison 40 times. He has spent more than 30 years behind bars.

Valadez finally decided to change his life in his 50s, when he realized that if he kept living this way, he would die soon.

In 2013, Valadez checked into an adult rehab facility. He stayed there for a year while he got clean. Soon after, he enrolled in Orange Coast Community College before ultimately transferring to Cal State Long Beach. In total, it took six years of challenging coursework for him to graduate. But from the look of pride in Valadez’s face, it was worth it.

Throughout his journey in the educational system, however, Valadez has discovered all the ways that the system failed him. Despite getting good grades in high school, teachers didn’t suggest college as an option for him. Instead, they suggested he pursue landscaping or construction. Similarly, when Valadez bounced in and out of jail due to his addiction, no one ever suggested rehab as a way for him to break the cycle.

Now, Valadez wants to take the lessons he learned and give back to his community.

At CSULB, Valadez excelled in sociology, and was interested in exploring how the criminal justice system is set up to target people of color. “I know a little bit about that subject because I lived it,” he said. “I wanted to understand the ‘why?’.” As of now, he is waiting to see if he gets accepted into CSULB’s Social Work masters program.

Valadez wants to use his new degree to help young kids who are at-risk of being failed by the system, like he was. “I’m going to inspire somebody, I’m going to motivate somebody, I’m going to give somebody hope,” he said. “That’s what I’m supposed to do.”

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