Breaking Down Barriers to Pursue Education

By Oscar González

Hello folks, my name is Oscar, and I am originally from Humacao, Puerto Rico. I grew up where the coconut trees are your shade, the beach breeze is your companion, and people lend you a hand for the sake of being a decent human being. Like many other families, my mother decided to migrate to Philadelphia in 2005 in search of a better life and opportunities. My younger siblings and I were facing another language, which became a barrier we decided to overcome the moment we heard our neighbors’ first, “Hey, wanna play outside?”

The new playground we encountered gave us another opportunity to continue to break family generational curses, push social boundaries, overcome personal fears, and grow inner strength as a family. Growing up in the public school system, I had to learn things quickly and had to push through the English-speaking struggle porque “yerba” mala nunca muere. We have to keep going because we want to make mami proud. Mami needs to see us do better than she did so she can vicariously live her broken dreams through us.

Habla inglés mijo para que así puedas ayudarme a traducir,” became the norm because we had to ensure we knew the right kind of English to help our people the right way. My mom never wanted me to be in ESL because she wanted me to learn English “faster.” Though this was a great risk, she was willing to sacrifice her efforts to make sure we progressed in the Feltonville area. Coming in the middle school years was very tough, and by my 8th grade year, I graduated from Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences (FSAS) as a first-generation Puerto Rican. El orgullo de la familia.  

Applying for high schools was another difficult process. Given the fact that I didn’t know what “good high schools” were, let alone my mother, was a major obstacle for me. I didn’t know what was the best fit for a little Puerto Rican boy who just got off the plane ready to go back to the motherland and continue his sueñito of living by the beach again. After many no’s and maybe’s, Nueva Esperanza High School gave me the opportunity to continue my secondary education. “Si esta fue la escuela que te aceptó, un propósito Diosito tendrá,” my mom said to convince herself that it is God’s destiny to be picked at only one high school. Here, I attended honors and AP classes despite my language disadvantage. I continued to pave the way for myself and push beyond my mental, emotional, and physical boundaries.

Finally, I was given the opportunity to take college classes while in high school at the Dual Enrollment Program, which exposed me to interests in sociology and psychology courses. I graduated in 2011 as the salutatorian, which is a dream that seemed far from reach, but this little Puerto Rican boy has come a long way. These opportunities propelled me to begin LaSalle University as a psychology major. My passion for human sciences shifted to double majoring in secondary education and Spanish. Through my years in college, after many months of observations, tons of lesson plans, multiple grades taught, and various levels of Spanish classes, I came back to my alma mater. I have found my purpose: to give back to the community who helped me beat the odds and not let the odds beat me.

I will forever be humbled and grateful for the challenges I faced, the struggles I had to overcome, and the odds I had to beat to get to where I am today. Fast forward to 2022, I am teaching my 8th year of Spanish at Esperanza Academy Middle School. I am proving to our young scholars that the grass IS greener on the other side. The future is what you make it, and it is up to you to decide to accept the blessing and learn from the lessons. Though life is not a straight path, it’s the journey that makes every moment reached and every goal achieved that much sweeter. ¡Sí se puede!

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