Glotzer and Leib, LLP is proud to announce the winner of our scholarship fund: Yesenia Nava
Education inequality and financial instability have significantly shaped both my personal education and my professional interests. I attended an elementary and middle school in Santa Ana, a school district primarily consisting of Latinx students that is consistently ranked as underperforming. My parents grew up together in Mexico and they immigrated to California in the early nineties and proceeded to start a family. I am one of six children and together the eight of us shared a two-bedroom home. To this day, my parents only speak Spanish and I learned English through the ESL program at my elementary school.
My parents always emphasized the importance of education. They instilled in me a love of learning and the idea that education would provide the pathway for success. They believed, as I do now, that obtaining a degree will help set myself and my future generations with opportunities that were not available to my parents. When I started my undergraduate journey, I was the first in my family to live in a dorm at a university and I was grateful for the opportunity to grow on my own. I received my Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies. My main research interests included analyzing global food systems, environmental ecology, and exploring social constructs of global catastrophes. I also dedicated time to learn about the Chicanx experience in America because I wanted to seize the opportunity to explore Chicanx identity and politics in an academic setting. While I was studying abroad in India and Barbados, I enrolled in courses outside of my major so that I could learn about the lives and histories of other marginalized groups. I participated in courses where I studied Indian sociology, African cultural traditions, and gender in Caribbean history. These courses were incredibly valuable and offered me a wider framework to discuss the oppression and racism felt by people of color and Black people specifically. These opportunities allowed me to be brave in my learning. They allowed me to expand my idea of what is possible for someone who looks like me and comes from my background.
Driven by my personal experience with education inequality, I sought out professional experiences to better understand how low funding and resources have shaped the educational experiences of low-income Black and brown students. My work with City Year Chicago and Reading Partners Colorado has placed me in Title 1 elementary schools in two different regions of the country. It is within these roles that I have been a mentor, a reading tutor, a small group discussion leader, and an advocate for them. I’ve cherished my experiences and I admire my students for showing perseverance and positivity despite the challenges they may face. In them I see myself and the challenges I have faced. I recognize that my struggles are also theirs and that I can be an agent of change and help develop a more just world.
All of this is unique because it is my own, but it rings true for a lot of children of immigrant parents. The wisdom I have gained through my life experiences have taught me that the world is a complicated place with many systems layered on top of each other. This can be overwhelming, but not all hope is lost. In every action and opportunity that we embark on, there is hope. There is the possibility that we can make the world a better place and help the people around us. We experience challenges, we grow from them, and then we can address those same challenges so that others after us do not have to face them. The most wonderful thing about being alive right now is that we have a plethora of wisdom available to us. It is within grasp and we can use it to help each other. We can be the change we’ve always hoped for.
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