Things That Matter

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

Shortened preview of Ale’s Graduation from Davis along with his family for being able to join him after not being able to see them for a number of years. Thanks Jo and Jon for helping along with this!

#undocumentedunafraid #undocumedia #fuckyourborders #undocugrad

Posted by Luis VC on Sunday, June 25, 2017

After dealing with homesickness for three years, this university student was finally able to reunite with his family and the tears were endless.

At 14 years old, Alejandro Espinoza made the decision to move to the United States with his aunt and uncle to learn English and attend high school. Coming to the U.S. to pursue an education meant leaving behind his parents and two younger brothers in Guanajuato, Mexico. Even though Alejandro’s family was able to visit him in the U.S. with tourist visas, their financial situation didn’t allow for this to happen frequently. Often times, Alejandro went months and sometimes years without seeing his family.

Once Alejandro completed high school and had the opportunity to attend a university, his homesickness only got worse.

While homesickness during college is hard enough, Alejandro explains that for him it was even more difficult because he knew his family wasn’t just a car or plane ride away.

CREDIT: JOSE VASQUEZ / JOHANA MENDOZA / JONATHAN MARTINEZ / ALEJANDRO ESPINOZA

“Other people would say, ‘Oh I miss my mom, I miss my dad,’ and I missed my mom too, but it wasn’t like I could just go home and see her.

It was especially difficult when my little brothers would post pictures on social media of my family. It sucks being absent from those pictures. And then you start to realize, ‘oh shit, mi mamá ya se ve mas mayor, or mi papá ya tiene más canas,’ and it sucks.”

Even though the original plan was to go back home to his family after completing high school, college then became an opportunity Alejandro could not miss. However, this opportunity ended up costing him the relationship he once had with his brothers.

CREDIT: JOSE VASQUEZ / JOHANA MENDOZA / JONATHAN MARTINEZ / ALEJANDRO ESPINOZA

“My brother is now 16 years old, that’s how old I was when I came to the U.S. I left them when they were six and three years old and the physical change has really thrown me off.

Nothing has changed, they’re still my younger brothers and I’m still the older brother. We’ve just been absent from each other’s lives for so long that we don’t know much about each other outside of that younger brother/older brother role.”

Since Alejandro made the decision to pursue his education in the U.S., he’s carried an overwhelming amount of guilt, feeling responsible for tearing his family apart.

CREDIT: JOSE VASQUEZ / JOHANA MENDOZA / JONATHAN MARTINEZ / ALEJANDRO ESPINOZA

“When I tell you about missing their birthdays, or missing Mother’s Day, just missing anything about their life, I don’t see it as, ‘Oh well, I missed it.’ I feel like, ‘Fuck, this is your fault because you decided to stay. It’s your fault that your brothers don’t have an older brother. It’s your fault that you can’t see your mom on Mother’s Day.’

I have always blamed it on me.”

But when Alejandro saw his family arrive at the airport and was able to hug them, it was as if all of that guilt had been lifted off his shoulders.

CREDIT: JOSE VASQUEZ / JOHANA MENDOZA / JONATHAN MARTINEZ / ALEJANDRO ESPINOZA

“I was really nervous going through the airport, and through the drive to the airport.

When I saw them my body just started crying on it’s own. I didn’t think about anything. When I hugged my brother, in that moment, after crying for like 15 minutes with my brothers and parents, coming back, my body felt so relieved.

It was until that moment that I was able to get rid of that guilt, and be like, ‘They’re here now, and they’re here because they want to see what I have done.'”

However Alejandro explains that that immense guilt wouldn’t exist in the first place if “there wasn’t a border.”

CREDIT: JOSE VASQUEZ / JOHANA MENDOZA / JONATHAN MARTINEZ / ALEJANDRO ESPINOZA

“I wouldn’t have to make this decision…It wouldn’t be so hard if there wasn’t a border. Because then I could have access to my family any time I wanted.

My goals are separated from my family.

If I pursue my goals here, then I have to be away from my family. And if I stay with my family, then I have to leave my goals and dreams that I have here.”

Alejandro opens up more about this internal battle in his poem “Por lxs que están aquí, pero no lxs pueden ver” which he read during commencement.

CREDIT: ALEJANDRO ESPINOZA

Little by little, whether it is through his poetry, documented videos, or any form of art at all, Alejandro wishes to touch on this subject that harms not just himself, but students all across the U.S.

“Once people see that someone is going through similar circumstances, they don’t feel alone. The reason I do art, why I share my art, is because I always see people at the end of the video or poetry reading who are like, ‘Fuck, I thought I was alone.’”

Although Alejandro was fortunate enough to have his family present for his college graduation, they are now gone and there’s no certainty about when he will get to see them again. All of the pain, guilt, anxiety and depression that he feels because of this separation is something he will continue to highlight through his art.


To help Alejandro with his tuition as he moves on to pursue his Masters degree, donate through this link here.


READ: A Teacher Thought She Was Funny Handing Out Racist Awards To Students But No One Is Smiling Now


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4-Year-Old Girl Accidentally Hung Herself While Climbing A Tree

Things That Matter

4-Year-Old Girl Accidentally Hung Herself While Climbing A Tree

A mother living in the United Kingdom is enduring a “hellstorm of grief” following the tragic death of her 4-year-old daughter. Just days after welcoming her twin daughters, Elise Thorpe was forced to learn of her daughter Freya’s shocking death after she climbed a tree near her home in Upper Heyford, Oxfordshire.

Just before her death, Freya was wearing a bicycle helmet when she went for her tree clim.

Freya slipped and began to fall off of the tree when her helmet strap caught on to a branch.

Elisa Thorpe is speaking out about the incident which took place in September 2019 despite efforts to resuscitate her daughter by emergency responders. According to Yahoo, “An inquest into her death in January 2020 ruled that she ‘potentially slipped’ and her helmet caught on a branch, causing the helmet strap to become ‘tight against her throat.’ She died in hospital two days later.”

Speaking about the incident Elise told The Sun “We live every day and night in hell, torture, sheer shock, and grief that can’t be comprehended.”

Elise told South West News Service that she and her husband “were on cloud nine after the long-awaited arrival and difficult pregnancy” of their twins Kiera and Zack. Speaking about the grief she experienced, Elise said that she would have taken her own life had it not been for the birth of her children.

Recalling the day of Freya’s death, Elise explained that her little girl had gone for a playdate.

“In the early afternoon, Daddy had to go off to collect the special milk from Boots pharmacy in Cowley for the twins, as they were allergic to cow’s milk,” Elise Thorpe explained about how her daughter had been invited to play at a house just a 10-second walk away.

Freya had gone outside without her mother knowing.

“I had a gut feeling I wanted her home. Shortly after, I saw an ambulance at the end of the road – I panicked, at the time not knowing why I was panicking,” Elise told SWNS. “I called my husband to say I was going to get her back from the house behind. He said, ‘No, I’m five minutes away, stay with the babies.’”

“I saw his car go past and not return from the little cul-de-sac. I knew something was wrong,” she went onto explain. After spotting her husband speaking with a firefighter, Elise “grabbed the twins and rushed to a cordoned area where she saw first responders working desperately on Freya.”

After two days of waiting at John Radcliffe Hospital, the Thorpe family learned Freya could not be saved.

“I never stepped foot inside my home again. This is something I also lost and miss to this day — my home,” Elise went onto say. “Had I not given birth only 10 days before we would have taken our lives in the hospital that night, without a shadow of a doubt… We have had so much support over the last 18 months and we can’t tell you all how much that’s helped us through and for that I can never thank everyone enough for the support, kind words and donations – even from those we’ve never met.”

“But we’ve also experienced scrutiny and abuse from people who’ve asked, ‘Where were the parents? How could they let her out alone?’” she added sadly. “It has caused family rifts from relatives and judgment all because people didn’t know Freya wasn’t in our care when this happened.”

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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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