By Christian Cayetano
On Friday, May 19, 2017, I reached a milestone that for over six years I have been dreaming of. A dream that for some would seem impossible, but for others a reality. I finally had the privilege of graduating from California State University San Marcos. I graduated with my B.A. in Visual and Performing Arts in Arts and Technology. I look back and reflect on how this was all possible — how my struggles not only put me down but have made me stronger.
Where I come from is no different from others who come at a young age to a new country, not knowing that later in life, they will be considered “different” from others. I was brought to the United States at the age of two, where I came to know Pasadena, CA as my new home. I grew up all of my life in low income and unprivileged communities where having a future was questionable. Due to my status, I didn’t really see any hope for me in my education other than finishing high school. After deep consideration and talking to the right people, I was guided on the right path.
I came to college with a scholarship as my only source of aid. I didn’t have the privilege to apply for FAFSA like my peers. I had to fund the rest of my education because my scholarship didn’t cover it all. With the help of my support system like family and friends, we were able to make food sales and yard sales. On my own I would recycle cans. Back then it was tough going to college. My junior year I got a sense of relief when Governor Brown passed the California Dream Act and President Obama introduced Deferred Action of Childhood Arrival (DACA). Not only was I getting some aid from the government, but legally I was allowed to work.
Even though it would seem everything was looking good for me, life just kept getting in the way. I went through many financial issues like leaving college for a while because I couldn’t afford paying off a semester. Back at home I was dealing with many personal family issues and also dealing with political views against immigrants. These distractions have haunted me and kept me away from being focused on my education.
Eventually, I learned how to stay true to myself and always remember why I’m going through all of this. The answer was to give back to my parents for all of their struggles. They came to this country to have the “American Dream” that many talk about. Yet they always go through discriminization like every other immigrant in this country. Both my parents work not only one or two but even sometimes three jobs to support my siblings and I. Due to that, I’m blessed to say I’m a proud Alumni of CSUSM. My journey continues to hopefully one day retire them both, buy a home for my mom, and buy the truck for my dad that he has been dreaming of. It’s my turn to take care of them. They’re both my pride and joy in life. Even though they’re divorced, I love them each equally.
By graduating and receiving my bachelors degree, I can say that I feel a lot more educated. I’m more aware and open minded with what’s happening in the world. I’m more inclusive as well, which is something that I admire the most. Now that I’m in the real world, I feel like I can interact with many different people from different orientations without judging them. From the time I found out about my status until I came to college, I’ve been judged because of my status. I’ve been threatened, looked down upon, and sometimes teased. However, what I have learned is that those doing the judging don’t live a healthy life. So instead of judging, I decided to bear with it and use the negative comments to my advantage and prove them wrong. By living a judgement-free life is something undergraduates can follow to a better path to success. We tend to judge a person based on their appearance, but we don’t really know what that person has gone through until you really get to know them. Being more supportive can make that person valuable. These are some examples that can make someone a better human being. There are many examples out there, but these values I endure while not going to college but by also being involved with multiple clubs.
A quote I like to say is, “If you really want it, you’ll make it happen.” This quote is very broad because it can be interpreted in many ways. For me it was if I really wanted an education, I was going to get that education despite what society thinks about me. Stay positive and always persevere.