The Importance of Education in the Immigrant Experience

Over the duration of my experience working in Fort Morgan, the overarching theme that I gained from the students is this, their parents fled from extenuating circumstances from their home country in order to ensure that their children would have more opportunities and that these opportunities would have to come from receiving a good education.

As a first-generation student, I fully understand this sentiment. My mother came from Korea when she was 16-years-old to gain an education and although she did not complete school due to having me at a young age, she expected me to get through school, succeed in college, and have a job where I wouldn’t have to work in manual labor as most of our family did.

Fort Morgan is a town that has in recent times, become one of the most diverse communities in the state of Colorado. The town has a foreign-born population of nearly 20 percent and 35 percent of households in Fort Morgan speaks a language other than English.

Growing up as a student being of the minority in a town such as this is not easy. When I asked these students of their experience of coming to Fort Morgan, there are many commonalities of being scared, not knowing the language, and for some of the students, living with those outside of their immediate family which can take away that support system which is so crucial in one’s childhood.

Their experiences of how they came to be in America are in a literal sense, were no cake walk either. Some of the students are refugees from war-torn countries, some came from the dangerous areas of Guatemala and Tijuana, and all the students faced immense danger on their journey. They all have a story but more importantly, they all have a destination. That destination is a better life and the path that they will take to a better life is education.

Most of these students see themselves as their family’s golden ticket in the sense that they have been given the opportunity that most from their situations could not dream. Due to this, they must succeed and receive a higher education in order to not only uplift the lives of their families but also to serve as a stepping stone for those that come from their situations and to show that a better life is a possibility.

I started working with these students the sophomore year of college. I served as a mentor, coordinated campus tours, and taught English during the summers. Most students at that age really do not see the value of education at that point in life because they are most interested in surrounding their childhood with fun. Despite this, I have never seen a group of students work so hard to grasp the knowledge that they have gained throughout my involvement in the program because when it comes to advancing their education, it really is their ticket to a better life for themselves and their families.

With the help of Blue Shoe Media, we have been able to tell the experiences of these students and document their stories. During a political climate such as the one we live in today, I believe it is especially important to help tell their stories and give them a voice, not as voyeurs, but instead to help them understand that their voice is important. Through telling their stories, these students are empowered to further themselves, advance their educations, and most importantly show them that their hope for a better life is more than hope, it is a realistic opportunity that is within their grasp.

If you would like to view the documentary, click here.

If you would like to view an article detailing Fort Morgan High School’s campus visit to Colorado State University, click here.