Achieving Through Believing

By: Crystal Sanchez

My journey to college has taught me many things, the most important being to BELIEVE. The world is truly at your fingertips. Growing up, the importance of education was always emphasized. My great-grandmother, an immigrant from Mexico, would always tell me stories about her childhood. I remember her explaining how she only attended school for two years because her parents could no longer afford to pay for her education. I was taken aback -“Do you mean to tell me school was not free grandma?!” I realized I was extremely blessed to have the opportunity to change my family’s legacy by pursuing my education. Since then, I have been even more determined to excel. I felt as if I owed it to my grandma and all those who have sacrificed for their families to live a better life.

“I realized I was extremely blessed to have the opportunity to change my family’s legacy by pursuing my education. Since then, I have been even more determined to excel.”

I will not say my journey towards a higher education has been smooth, but rather a learning experience. My doubts increased in high school as I noticed there were other students who were way more intelligent than I was. Then one day I realized…shoot, imagine how many smart kids there are throughout America?! How would I ever be able to compete? Coming from the small town of Pico Rivera, I felt somewhat secluded from the rest of the world, considering there is not much diversity or many college-educated families. As a result, I felt like I was only “pico smart.” How would I ever get into my dream school, the University of California, Los Angeles? Surely, it would be a long shot.

Looking back, I feel ashamed to have ever doubted myself. If I had continued to have that negative mindset, my aspirations would not have been fulfilled. Pico Rivera is a great place, with great people who genuinely care about the community. Jacki and Gilbert Cisneros are a prime example of what I like to call local heroes. The programs they initiated at El Rancho High School transformed my life. I participated in both “Blueprint” and “Be a Leader” and let me just say… wow. Not only did these programs give me the confidence to be successful, but they handed me the tools I needed to be a competitive college applicant. I credit Alma Renteria and Yvet Torres for serving as mentors to me and guiding me to fulfill my dream to attend UCLA. Alma worked with me endlessly to perfect my personal statements and UC application in general. She pushed my limits to really dig deeper into myself. I realized I am capable, I am worthy, and I am smart enough to compete with students around the country.

Needless to say, I was accepted into my dream school. I remember the tears running down my face because I knew I deserved this moment. I felt like I had won not only for Hispanic women, but Hispanic children across the country who may feel that because they are brown, they are not college material. I remember feeling intimidated by the lack of color I saw when visiting universities, but I am here today contributing to the alteration of that image. With programs like “College Blueprint” and “Be a Leader,” the path towards a higher education is made more accessible and attainable for students just like myself. Although I am still unsure what it is I wish to do in the future, I am unafraid because I have the mindset that anything is possible if I work hard work. I encourage students who may feel lost and unsure of what major to pursue to remain calm…that’s what college is for! You are not the only one. I’m right there with you, as well as thousands of others. Always remember, the key to success begins with one word…BELIEVE.