College Essays: Working Hard to Get Ahead

Jose Torres, Harding Senior High School

I cook. I clean. And I’m already a parent to my younger siblings. I have no other choice at the age of 16 than to man up and act like an adult while my mom and dad are working long and exhausting labor jobs. They expect a lot from me and I plan to live up to their expectations by going to school, getting good grades and enrolling in college.

Their childhoods differed from mine. They grew up in Mexico and dropped out of high school in 9th grade because they had to work on their parents’ farms. Life in their hometown of Puebla, most people were poor, held labor jobs and traveled by bike or horse. They lacked technology and resources for a better living. In the 1990s, they moved to the United States.

I have learned a lot of things from my parents, who know we all have a better chance to get ahead by living in America. Seeing them work day and night and not getting enough sleep shows me their courage and dedication. They work at least 10 hours a day and have just enough money to rent an apartment, put food on our table, and buy clothes for the family.

My mom impresses me when I see her wake up at 4:30 a.m. to get ready for work in a factory. My dad also works early and sometimes arrives home as late as 8 p.m. I notice their tired eyes struggle to stay open some nights. They work so hard and they never give up.

When my parents are at work, I slave over chores and take care of my siblings. It’s my duty to protect my brother and sister. It's like I am a parent at age 16. It seems hard, but in reality, it’s a good way to prepare myself for when I move out and start a new life on my own.

Because they didn’t finish high school, my parents want my brother, sister and me to graduate high school, go to college and have a career.

“Education will take you far,” my parents have said.

“You don't want to end like us. Do something that you like and use it for your future,” my dad has told me. “Have faith in what you want to become.” I always have that quote in my heart and mind.

I am a junior at Harding High School in St. Paul. I like school and my favorite subjects are history and math. I was on the soccer and track and field teams. Playing sports showed me the value of being respectful to others and never giving up. When I ran the 4x100 relay at the conference meet, I ran the anchor leg, and even though I got tired I had no choice but to surpass my limits and finish the race. In my junior year, I took a break from sports to work. I average 27 hours a week as a cook at Chipotle in downtown St. Paul. At this job, I am learning to stay flexible, time management and customer service -- skills I know I will need in the future.

I also love photography. When I take a picture of a person or an object, it reminds me of something special and precious. It really is true that a picture is worth a thousand words. No matter where I go, I take pictures. Photography shows me to how to embrace life and not be shy, to make new friends every day, and to help people deal with their struggles.

I want to become a therapist because I like helping people. I know have to go to college. I know why I’m here in this world: to show what I’m capable of. I want to get ahead and be successful in life. I have learned a lot in school and from my parents, and I know I will succeed if I follow their example of hard work and perseverance.

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