My mom always makes a point to ask just how tired I feel after accompanying her to clean sometimes up to three houses per day during the weekends. After proclaiming my exhaustion she does not console me or apologize. Instead, she explains how it serves me well to know why I am to continue to excel at school. Since I was old enough to read and write, I was also cleaning toilets and mopping floors in addition to being my mom’s translator. We would ride the bus from our liquor store lined neighborhood into ocean view properties and pretend that this was our home.
The reality was that we were undocumented immigrants trying to make it in a society with a label that dehumanizes us as dispensable and undeserving without taking into consideration anything else but our status. I had graduated top ten in my class with a number of scholarships and had the drive to continue my education at a four year university, yet I was unable raise enough money and was excluded from receiving government assistance because of my undocumented status. However, that did not stop me. It did not alter my drive and determination to continue my education, instead, it strengthened them. I enrolled into my local community college with a stronger will to help my family and my community overcome the prevailing barriers of our socioeconomic status.
In response to those sentiments I chose anthropology as my major at UC Berkeley. I was inspired by the fact that anthropology works towards validating all people. Anthropologists aim is not to judge or decide what is correct or wrong but to understand and help to explain the circumstances of all social groups. I want to adopt that ideology in order to help eradicate such bias against all marginalized people. I envision a career for myself that includes working with underrepresented communities of both developed and underdeveloped countries. In the past I have felt that it was a romanticized notion that only wealthy philanthropist could undertake, even less by someone who grew up cleaning others people’s homes. Now my attitude and confidence has quickly changed with the influence of the unique training that anthropology offers and the impact of my work with The Children’s Dental Center of Greater Los Angeles.
It is a nonprofit organization that largely works with illegal residents, just like my family. I take pride in assisting these families since most often we are the only ones they can turn to when they do not have insurance or government assistance for dental and oral health. That is what anthropology and our center has inspired me to do. I want to be able to provide the proper assistance in all aspects of life for those who have been left behind.
LatPro.com’s scholarship program for Hispanic students is proud to announce Mayra Herrera as one of the six finalists for its August application deadline. Vote for her essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column), and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.