Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How One Set of Immigrant Parents Survive Poverty with Their Children While Instilling Values; Continuing Series of Students Writing About Their Role-Model Parents

Dear Readers: I have had the luck and good fortune to read stories about how students feel toward their immigrant parents who've worked hard to make their lives so much better. Since we often hear about the bad immigrant parents, it seemed like a good idea to post the stories students wrote about their successful parents who filled them with values and did everything possible to guide them and their futures and keep them from joining gangs. This story is by San Pedro High School Senior Ivan Lara, 18, varsity soccer coach.

By Ivan Lara

One afternoon, we were driving by a Burger King when my older brother, Edgar, and I were small and we asked our parents to buy us a hamburger. I could tell by the way my parents looked at each other that money was an issue.

My father checked his pockets. All he had was a couple of dimes and nickels. That was it. Once we parked, we decided to look under and between the seats of our truck for spare change. Finally we rounded up enough money to buy one hamburger.

One measly hamburger for two adults and two children. My mom and dad each had one bite and Edgar and I split the rest. This example illustrates my childhood. Most of our shoes came from the least expensive stores. My dad’s gardening clients donated most of our clothes. My parents are both immigrants and spoke no English.

Once they arrived in the U.S, my dad became a gardener; my mother worked for four years as a janitor and is now unemployed due to the economic crisis our nation is experiencing. Although my family and I have gone through several hardships due to financial matters, I know we will survive as we always have with every obstacle we faced. Being poor has taught me a great appreciation for life and the value of family.

My family immigrated to this country in August of 1994 and later became residents in 2002. When I started school at the age of four, I had no idea how to speak English, but I learned quickly and made many friends. My parents were unable to help with my homework as they didn't have much of an education.

During middle school, I fell into a bad crowd and I was teased and called names because I was smart and liked school. The following summer, my friends and I got into a fight with a gang; I nearly was jumped. After that, I dropped those friends and made new ones who wanted an education. I also focused more on my academics more than anything else because I knew my grades were going to help me with my future.

Meanwhile, I was thinking about college but had no idea how to get started. I walked into The Boys and Girls Club one day to check it out and saw their “Wall of Fame,” filled with the faces of students the staff helped go off to college. I was amazed.

Once, I talked to Cara, the College Bound director, I definitely knew college was perfect for me. The Boys and Girls Club has had a great impact in my life; I go there to take all the College Bound programs, including the writing class and for tutoring in calculus. But I also tutor younger students who need help. I wanted to help other kids who have parents like mine and are able to help their children study.

There was a point in my life where I felt helpless because I couldn’t do anything to help a person who I love greatly – my little sister. I heard a big thump in the middle of the night and saw my dad scrambling to get dressed. My mom was sobbing and I was clueless of what was happening. They rushed out of the house, my dad holding my little sister in his arms.

She was having an asthma attack and they rushed her to emergency room. More visits to the ER followed after that. One morning, I heard my little sister tell my mom: “Mommy, I feel like dying.” My mom just broke into tears. My little sister’s illness motivated me even more to go to college and make something out of myself, possibly in the medical field, so I can help children like my sister.

My families situation has taught me many things. Saying Happy Birthday to each other is special – much more than a material gift. Not all gifts are related to money.

Another special thing in my life was when I started playing soccer at age twelve and liked it a lot. I made the All Star Team and varsity by my sophomore year and later became San Pedro High’s team captain. I am grateful that I fell in love with the sport because it saved me.

While my older brother delved into the gangs and drugs – we lived in a crime ridden neighborhood in Wilmington -- soccer kept me away from that lifestyle and made me more determined to focus on my grades. I didn’t want to live that way. (When my father couldn’t get control of my brother, he pulled him out of school and took him to work everyday. My brother still works with my father and is working currently for his high school equivalency).

Besides my parents, my uncle is a good role model. He is trying to make the community we live in a better place which is nicknamed “Ghost Town” and was run by gangsters and drugs. My uncle has hosted several community clean-ups to try and make the area a better place. I help him to clean the streets and alley ways. While it is not the total answer, we have seen some success with this hard work.

My parent’s hard worked has helped me pave a successful future – and for that I need a college degree, which I will get. But more than anything, I respect that they gave me good values and a great appreciation for life, poor or otherwise.