As a young child, I was unaware of the degree of poverty I was born into. I never asked, Why don't I have my own room? Why don't we have running water? Why do we live in this tiny shack? It wasn't until later that I began to realize what poverty really meant and worse, the kind of humiliation that comes with it.
I was in the third grade when I understood my world was entirely different from my classmates'. As a family of migrant workers, we constantly moved back and forth between Texas, Arizona and California. I hated more than anything always being the new kid in school. I quickly realized some teachers didn't really expect much from me because after all, I was just a 'migrant kid' and I would be gone in a few months anyway. It was that indifference and my own low self esteem that made me want to quit school on more than one occasion. Luckily, the reality of my own impoverished environment helped to keep me in school. On the weekends and during the summer, I was working the fields with my parents. They never forced me to work, but I could see they were struggling to make ends meet. The extra money I made was mine to buy the clothes I needed or little things I wanted. As I worked in the fields, my parents' advice echoed in my head: ‘If you don't want to end up like us, you must stay in school.” I listened. They were loving parents, but one thing was clear: I didn't want to live like they did. I wanted a better life. I thought a job as a cashier might be nice. Never in my wildest dreams did I envision the career I am in now. Being a reporter never entered my mind.
All that changed when a great teacher inspired me to dream big. Mrs. Joan Burkholder, an eighth-grade teacher was one of those adults no one dared disrespect. Perhaps some students considered her mean, but to me she was a guiding light. Mrs. Burkholder didn't care that my English was less than perfect. All she cared about was making sure I got the right education and most importantly, that I believed in myself. One day, she made her students read a school report in front of the classroom while she videotaped it. When I was done, she told me: “You do that really well, you should be a reporter.” That's all it took. She planted the seed that very day. For the first time, someone other than my parents believed in me, allowing me to believe in myself. I later transferred schools again, but I was no longer that scared child of before. I had a much higher self esteem and a dream that no one would ever take away from me. I finished high school in small rural town Canutillo, Texas. And I went on to graduate from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.
It's taken a lot of hard work and dedication to get to where I am now. When you have nothing to begin with, everything you earn along the way means the world to you. When I talk to kids with a similar background, I often sense a hopelessness in them. I see in their faces the sadness and the fear that only those who have been truly poor can understand. I tell them not to be afraid to dream big. To fight for what they believe in, to stay away from people who belittle their ambitions and to find those willing to help them. I tell them to prove themselves with hard work and to continue their education. I hope to serve as an example by communicating the simple truth: When you set your mind and heart to it, you can achieve grand things.