A Promise for a Promise
“For a better future” was the answer I got every time I asked why we came to the United States, or “el Norte” (the North) as I knew this country back then.
I was born in Salvatierra, Guanajuato, Mexico, and lived there until the age of five. Some may say I lived in poverty, but thank the Lord, I never went hungry. I may not have had running water and sewage or paved roads and a car; I may not have known what cell phones, computers or microwaves were, but I was happy. Poverty is subjective, because our lacks in riches, can be compensated with peace and love. Besides, at the end of the day, we can’t miss what we don’t know exists.
My mother divorced my father when I was three years old after she had been forcibly married off and lived years of physical, emotional and sexual violence along his side. After the separation, my mom was left a single mother of two with no education and no job. With no prospective of survival, she was forced to make the hardest decision of her life: immigrate to the United States.
“We’re here for a better future,” my mom would say as she explained there are more opportunities for education in the United States than back home.
“Opportunities for what?” I used to think. It all seemed so unfair — so unjust. As I realized I was not going back home, I learned to be silent without objection. I came to accept the laughs about being Hispanic, about speaking Spanish and even about being Catholic.
However, with time, I also came to realize there was an escape to my days of sadness: learning. Education became my refuge from cultural oppression, but also from the nightmare I was living at home. Upon arriving in the United States, I discovered my mom had remarried, but soon my renewed excitement for a father became terror.
For more than a year after I arrived at this great nation, I was physically and emotionally abused by my first step-father. Due to death threats and the circumstances, my mother did not find out about the abuse until the torture not only broke my spirit, but also my arm.
As a result of these experiences and many more obstacles in my life, I was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2008. That was only the beginning of my on-going experience as a mental health patient.
As the years passed by, I was further diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Life has given me blows that have made me reach the lowest imaginable points of self-worth — points at which I felt I had nothing to contribute to the world.
Twice I have survived attempts of suicide. Today, I look back and believe God has forgiven my mistakes and woke me from those comas, because He has something in store for me here on Earth.
Not going to college was never an option. I knew I had to go so that the sacrifices and suffering were not in vain. I withstood everything for a better life — a life that would not be possible without a college education. However, coming from an immigrant family, the only way I could go to college was with loans.
After applying to dozens of scholarships and being rejected, I had lost all hope of graduating college debt free. Pretty soon, however, things began to change when I received my first award letter for the Centennial Coating Scholarship. My dream to be a teacher was reassured when I received the Thomas & Susan Den Herder Education Scholarship and a scholarship from Latin Americans United for Progress. At that point I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I knew I could do it.
But God had even more blessings for me because soon came a promise. Without expecting much, I interviewed for the Holland/Zeeland Promise Scholarship. To my surprise, I was blessed to receive it: a scholarship that gives me the privilege of graduating completely debt free. The stress of paying for college was lifted off my shoulders, so that I could focus solely on my education.
Even with the challenges I’ve faced, I am now a Dean’s List junior in college. This is not only an enormous accomplishment for me, but for my whole family!
Being a Promise Scholar means much more than graduating debt free. This scholarship is paving the path to that “better future” my family and I immigrated for. It has provided a platform for me to encourage others like me to say, “I am proud to be Mexican! I am proud to be an immigrant!” It is helping me achieve my goal to become a teacher so that I can help students who are afraid to go home after school. The Promise Scholarship is proof that God does have a plan for me: making a difference in the lives of my future students.
And here lies the key: the efforts of everyone who contributes in one way or another to the Promise Scholarship do not stop with us; they live on as we pass everything you give us to the many people we encounter as we become teachers, nurses, doctors, business people, social workers and more.
All Promise Scholars share so much in common. We have all faced hardships, whether it be immigration, abuse, economic hardships or health impediments. The most important thing we all share is a promise. The donors of this life-changing scholarship made me, and the rest of the recipients, the promise of a future. In exchange, we make the promise to give it our best each and every day; to pass on the generosity and love they have shown us to all the people we will meet in the future.
This is the best way of saying thank you to all the current and future donors: with a promise for a promise. Thank you for believing in us.
Originally featured in the Community Foundation’s 2018 Winter Newsletter. While this was written by CFHZ’s Communications Associate Lina Pierson in 2018, we believe that stories of generosity are timeless and always relevant.
To learn more about the Holland/Zeeland Promise Scholarship, visit www.cfhz.org/hzpromise or contact Stacy Timmerman, Director of Scholarships, at email@example.com.