College Essay: A Mexican education system teaches a valuable lesson

Rodrigo Estrada Morales, Minneapolis Roosevelt High School
Rodrigo Estrada Morales, Minneapolis Roosevelt High School

When I arrived in Mexico City from my home, Minnesota, two years ago, I was petrified when I saw a place that looked hopeless. No trees, roads built out of sand and the buildings looked old and close to collapsing.

I decided to take my first trip to Mexico when I was 15 years old to see how my parents had lived in a little village in Tlatlaya. I was super excited to see how my parents’ lifestyle was back then. When I arrived to my parents’ village, it was way worse than I expected. There were no trees, it was a desert with no hope and the people looked exhausted.

During the last week of my month-long trip, I had the courage to examine how my cousin’s high school system worked. When we arrived, I noticed that it was difficult for most of the students. There were students who didn’t have enough money to buy their notebooks and they didn’t have the resources to find a place where they could obtain free notebooks. I saw most of the students struggling to sharpen their pencils with a knife in order for the lead to come out. There were students with bloody and cut hands from the knife. In my country, I have a computer lab, library and teachers who will give you a free notebook.

“I’ve lost all hope in trying hard in school,” said David, my cousin who attends school in Tlatlaya. “There’s not many opportunities for us.” He said kids in this village don’t have school materials and lose interest in school. When we got done talking, he said to me, “Have you ever lived in a place where you don’t have many opportunities?”

My parents didn’t have many educational opportunities growing up in Tlatlaya, either. My parents stopped going to school after eighth grade. My mom went to Mexico City to clean houses for rich people. My dad started working for companies that build houses.

During my flight back to Minnesota, I reflected on what my cousin had told me that last day in Mexico. He reminded me that during my freshman year, I did not really care about school that much and did not try to get good grades. I realized that I had not been taking advantage of all the opportunities around me, including an afterschool tutor program that teachers would organize for students who needed help.

When I started my sophomore year, I put more effort in trying to attain help after school from my teachers. After I failed to get a “B” in geometry, I went to check in with my teacher during lunch a few times a week to try to figure out what I could do, and I ended up with a “B.” At the end of my sophomore year, I received the opportunity to get my first job at Target as a cashier, in order to contribute to my college fund. I also got involved in College Possible, a program that helps kids go to college.

I will go to college to become a businessman in order to go back to Mexico to help families in need and send their kids to school. I know I’m going to face obstacles in life that are going to hold me back from accomplishing my goals. My parents’ and cousin’s situations inspire me to overcome challenges and take advantage of all the opportunities along my way.

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