By Nora Ramirez
As I look around Arvin, I realize how few options there are for me to succeed in my hometown. It isn’t common for young people here to outdo their parents or other relatives. More often I see them leaving school to work in the fields. Speaking English, or having legal status doesn’t make much of a difference. Money is needed, and school isn’t an option.
But while this depresses me, it also inspires me to seek more, to know what there is to the world, and to know what it feels like to say, “I’m a college student.”
Being surrounded by grape vines diminishes the opportunities for great achievements. They are like a sphere keeping me from going out, from having adventures, meeting new people, and learning new things. It’s hard to find a job in Arvin that doesn’t involve sun and sweat, but bills need to be paid and the fields are the only option.
Doing an internship or filing paperwork in an office during summer break never crosses my mind. I ask myself why? Then I think of all the possible jobs I could have around the corner this summer. Not many. All those possible jobs end up at the “pisca” – or harvest – either of grapes or cherries. Fields it is.
I have a lot of respect for field workers, but long hours under the sun and crouching can wait. Being the daughter of farmworker parents, and seeing them suffer in the fields is something I do not want to experience.
But then I ask myself, is it worth it to know how to read, write, and speak English? Is it worth it to be an American citizen? Is it worth it to go to school? All these opportunities are available, but where are the jobs? I see texts from friends like, “My dad can’t go to work anymore, he hurt his back,” or “Who’s working in the fields tomorrow morning? I need a ride.” My favorite one is, “I don’t have time to go to school.”
My parents’ advice to take advantage of my education and my ability to speak English feels useless as I see friends and classmates toiling in the fields. The love and passion I have for my community turns to anger and disappointment. She is not predestined for the fields. He is not predestined for the fields.
I am not predestined for the fields!
And so I dream big. I dream that I will be the first one in my family to not work in the fields. I will be the first to pursue a college education. I will graduate from San Jose State University with a Communications degree in my hand.
And I will become a role model for future generations in Arvin. Impacting my community and making it better is what I will do. I will lead young, bright minds to “work hard mentally and not physically,” as my mom always says. I will be the first change I profoundly want to see.
Nora Ramirez, 18, is a contributing writer for South Kern Sol. She is preparing to enter San Jose State University this fall to pursue a bachelor’s degree in communications.