Growing up as the youngest of six children of a Chicano migrant worker family in South Texas in the 1960s, the odds of my graduating from high school and going on to college were slight, to say the least. My parents had little to no formal education, most of my siblings had dropped out of school to help the family financially, and it seemed I was destined to follow the same path.
However, my third grade teacher saw something in me that caused her to call my parents in for a conference in which she impressed upon them a potential she saw in me and offered to help them send me to college when the time came. That moment, literally, changed my life.
From then on, my parents began to take a more active interest in my grades and my siblings began protecting me from the negative influences around us, urging me to stay in school and not drop out as they had. With this motivational support and encouragement, despite continued financial obstacles, I went on to receive a B.A. degree in Psychology and Sociology at Texas A&I University, Kingsville and eventually an M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Sociology from the University of Notre Dame.
It was at Notre Dame that I realized I wanted to teach at the higher education level, not only to help develop a more inclusive and diverse curriculum and environment in the university, but also to be present as an example and support for students from underrepresented backgrounds.
Currently, I am Professor of Sociology at College of the Desert where I have found my life’s mission. Our student body is 54 percent Latino, the majority are from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and many are the first in their family to go to college. My students are battling so many disadvantages in their lives that when they succeed it is an outsized accomplishment for them and for me. I am proud and humbled to be a member of the faculty at College of the Desert.