My parents arrived in the United States 25 years ago with little money and, through hard work, became business owners. Despite my parents’ lack of fluency in English, they managed to raise me and my three siblings, along with two other siblings and extended family members who at the time lived in the Dominican Republic. My parents ultimately established and maintained two well-known grocery stores for several years.
Unfortunately, when I was 12, my parents filed for bankruptcy, in the process losing everything we had owned. We then moved to the Dominican Republic. For me, it was a volatile and painful experience. I had great difficulty adjusting to the Dominican culture and school system. I spoke a fair amount of Spanish, but mostly English. I found myself completing my last year of junior high in a Spanish-speaking country, even though I did not know how to read or write in Spanish, and had a strong accent when I spoke the language.
A year later, we moved back to the United States, this time to the state of Florida. Again, I found myself in a challenging environment. It was hard to believe that my parents, who had been successful business owners, were now mistreated agricultural workers in Belle Glade, Florida. I felt traumatized and distraught. Yet, I endured and accepted the living conditions that were presented to me in a daily basis.
When I was 15, my parents’ frustration drove them to move again, this time to Ontario, Canada. During our stay in that country, I had the opportunity to interact with multiple refugees from the Middle East and Africa. Change and diversity had become part of my life, but along with that I had developed a sense of revulsion for injustice and an eagerness to break cultural barriers. At the same time, because of my relative isolation, I felt out of sync, belonging not to any particular place but to an abstract world.
Recently, as a student at Rollins College, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend a conference where the issue of human trafficking was presented. Among the panelists was a former Sudanese slave. I was standing in front of a human being whose childhood had been stripped away and replaced by a life filled with cruelty and pain. Looking straight into my eyes, he said to me, “I know you will make a difference, just by looking at you, I can see it. I can feel it.” To graduate with a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs will mean completing the first step towards fighting against and helping to eliminate international injustices.
LatPro.com’s scholarship program is proud to announce Concepcion Torres as one of the finalists for its December 2012 application deadline. Vote for her essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column), click the ‘star’ just above comments section below, and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.