I was raised in Hempstead, NY in Long Island, in a town that’s most talked about as “chaotic” and “helpless.” I was raised in a family of six, with two Latino parents who came into this country with a different vision for my sisters and me—to pursue much more in this life.
We lived in a basement, all six of us. It was deteriorating and we had no stove, no refrigerator. We starved together; we cried together. Every night, I saw how much I was losing weight, and I just let it happen because I used all my funds just so that my family can eat. Senior year of high school came, and we were still in the basement. I received 6 scholarships, and to be honest, I didn’t use them for me. I used them to feed my family.
I wasn’t psyched about the milestones like high school graduation, but then I applied for an on-spot admissions to Long Island University, to the HEOP Program. I sat with Directors who questioned my reasons for wanting to be in college, and I answered them: “I want to support my family.” I became an HEOP student, and I received academic and financial support. This brought tears of joy. Upon my return back to Hempstead, my parents hugged me and told me, ”We are proud of you” in Spanish.
In 2018, everyone in my family went our separate ways, due to the financial burdens we kept facing. I wasn’t ready for the leap. I kept this secret from my family, but I became homeless and had to sleep inside my co-worker’s car because I had no funds and nowhere to stay. Now, in 2019, I rent a room in Hempstead, and I visit my family.
I am now a SEEK student at Queens College and transferred from LIU Post with a 3.5 GPA. Because of HEOP and SEEK, I can almost give my family and myself the better life we desired for a long time. Because of these programs, I am able to advocate for the youth in Hempstead and tell them that no matter how hard the trials are back at home, an education will heal them. It’s because of programs like HEOP and SEEK that I’ve gained confidence and the voice to share my story. As a SEEK student now, I am proud to say that I receive all the help I need from the SEEK program in Queens College.
We all have a story to share, and I am not politicizing this issue. I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat. I am a human being that cares for all. Us students, who face immense poverty and some academic trails, need SEEK, HEOP, and EOP. Funding these programs will illuminate the lives of those who need support and help those who struggle and yet work multiple jobs, just to receive a degree.
Because of Queens College SEEK, I was able to share my story with you, and I thank you for your time. Please continue to fund these programs because the underrepresented need them.