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To be or not to be, a Latino with a degree…

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One of the many sources of pride for me is that my parents came to the states and were able to build a life for themselves, and their family, I’m sure that you can relate.


My Cuban father made it through grammar school before he was put to work to help provide for the family, his family focused on survival over education.


My Colombian mother, the youngest in her family, made it through grammar school when father (the sole provider) was killed, so again, survival overrode education.


The big difference is that my mom’s family has always emphasized higher education.  Most of her older sisters and brothers are both highly educated and are now educators throughout the country.  Although the means were not available to my mother, she kept this value throughout her journey in life.


Fast forward 40 years – did I just tell on myself?! My parents immigrated to the states, both are successful entrepreneurs, have provided for us, and all without the benefits of higher education.  My father learned in the school of hard knocks, and my mother (remember education was valued in her family) returned to school in the states after starting her family, has her GED and some college, but what about me?


I took my father’s path.  Yes, I made it past grammar school.  Yes, I love to learn and do so every day, but I’m not a college graduate – wait, did I write that out loud?!  Most people assume that I am, because most people are and because, thankfully, I am educated, albeit not in the traditional sense, but enough about me, what about my children?  I want them to earn a college degree.


The degree-less path is not a common path, nor is it an easy path, and although having a degree doesn’t guarantee you any success, it does ensure a certain amount of inclusion, and I want my children to be included in all the wonderful things life has to offer.  The love of learning starts young, as does the reverence for school.  So, I am involved.  I am involved in preschool (remember, I said it starts young?).  I volunteer; I speak to my daughter, her friends, her teachers.  I tell her that she can go to school, learn and be whatever she wants to be.  She can be a mommy and a fireperson and a doctor and an astronaut, as a matter of fact, she is Spiderman as we speak, but she has to go to school and learn to do these things.  She will have to study, it may not be easy, she will get frustrated and she will persevere. We have college funds for them both (although we are hoping for scholarships), and both my husband and I have agreed, we will do everything in our power for them to have a college degree.


And me?  Do I think from time to time that I should go back to school, yes, alomejor ahora es el momento.


About mzelma

Culturally ambidextrous renaissance woman. Mom, wife, daughter, entrepreneur, blogger, shiny and fabulous, just like home! Find out more at

6 responses »

  1. Great article! I want the same for my child.

  2. I agree with you that a degree isn’t necessarily the only mark of success, but it sure does help. I really enjoyed hearing about your family. Great post!

  3. Elma, I read you… in my case my grandma only learned to write her name, mom made it through fourth grade, no father figure, no college grads to look up to. I dropped out of college to start a family. Went back and finished my bachelor’s degree as a millennium resolution and then my masters at 47y/o; so dear don’t let the dream slip away… it’s never too late

  4. Hi Elma, it was nice to connect with you on the #latism twitter party. My parents are Colombian and also believe in higher education. My father came to the United States to practice his profession as a Doctor. So I am glad he made the effort for our large family. My is about to graduate from high school and happy that he is motivated to get a degree. BTW don’t worry about age..its all in the mind..and I’m probably older than you;)

  5. Hey! Now I remember how we found each other on Twitter! We both participated in LATISM/ESELMOMENTO. Very cool! 🙂


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