Downtown College Prep, the charter school in my book, aims to qualify all its graduates for four-year colleges. Saturday, 12 students in the first graduating class were admitted to San Jose State. The Mercury News’ story interviews a girl I know, Gloria Medina, who pulled her grades from Ds and Fs as a freshman to As and Bs. I know Berenice too. She’d been dumped in special ed in middle school and was determined to escape. She’s got a 3.5 GPA.
I was helping students with college essays today. One boy wrote about his mother working two jobs to support him. When he was in elementary school, she bicycled him to school at 6:30 am, dressed in two layers of clothing for warmth, so she could get to her first job by 7:30.
Then I read one by an A student whose mother works three jobs to support the family. (No father in either case.) The first line of the girl’s essay read like poetry:
I walked barefoot across the border in my mother’s dreams.
I think she needs to clarify that her mother was fulfilling a dream, not dreaming. This girl left Mexico at the age of six wearing her favorite shoes. But the shoes squeaked, and her mother was afraid the noise would alert the Border Patrol. So the little girl threw away her shoes and kept walking. Her essay is about realizing that going to college is her own dream — not her mother’s. She has to make this journey on her own.