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Karen Calderon: ‘Tu puedes hacerlo’ — ‘You can do it’

By Karen Calderon

Special to the Salisbury Post

“Tu puedes hacerlo.” For as long as I can remember, my parents have told me that I can do anything that I put my mind to, and the only thing that is going to hinder me is myself. Their motivation has been the reason I delve into my studies and continue to keep pushing forward.

Education and cultivation are valued very highly by my parents. They came from a place where access to education was not easily acquired. My mother tells me that more often than not, she commuted to school barefoot in the Mexican heat. She would have countless blisters on her feet, but she did it for the sake of her education.

Unfortunately, my mother did not have the opportunity to finish elementary school. Instead, she helped my grandmother and grandfather harvest and sell their crops and maintain their farm. To this day, a majority of my aunts and uncles do not know how to read or compute simple math, but my mother did not settle for that emptiness and taught herself how to read and write. She studied relentlessly for what is considered basic education in America.

My father lived a slightly more urban lifestyle. He was privileged enough to be ranked third in high school, right behind his sister. My father is a very intelligent man and would’ve been very successful, but like millions of others in Mexico, he left high school to come to the United States to work and financially support his family.

Together, my parents came to this country to give me the opportunity to create something of myself. They did not want me to have a thirst for knowledge and not have a cup to drink from. My parents have sacrificed so much in their lifetimes so I could aim for the stars. They often come home bruised, burned and scratched from jobs that pay a couple more dollars than minimum wage and require long, agonizing hours. My sisters and I are the reasons they wake up in the mornings. They want us to have choices to pick from and for us to contribute to society in more ways than they were able to.

My life ambition is to be there for my future children in ways that my parents could not be there for me. I’m not conveying that they are not supportive parents, because they are. There have been situations, however, where they were not sufficiently prepared for 21st century America. I am the eldest of their three children and the first who will attend college. My mother and father have continuously told me never to cease my education, so applying to college has always been my only option. I sometimes feel as if I am being thrown into a whirlwind of keeping grades up, along with applying for scholarships and to colleges. My parents don’t have any background experience or any type of knowledge in these areas and are not able to help prepare me for the future I am planning.

I want to be available for my children when they arrive at this point in their own lives. I don’t wish for them to be clueless in the way that I was. I want to be able to present them the parental guidance that I wasn’t privileged enough to receive during these crucial moments in my life. I am striving to be educated so I will be able to do routine activities with them such as studying, proofreading their essays, being able to provide personal experiences and just simply being there to listen.

Following my parents’ example, I wish that the generations after me will be happy and successful. In order for that to occur, I must be willing to accept that there will be bumps in the road, because one must know struggle before she tastes success.

Karen Calderon is a student at A.L. Brown High School.

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