Achieve Your Dreams First-Generation Professionals. Sidestep the Gatekeepers.

"UC Berkeley is too hard. Go to a state school instead."

If you've ever been underestimated, the experience leaves you feeling vulnerable and self-conscious. You start reevaluating all your work and achievements.

You lose sight of all the ways you had to fight and accommodate your big dreams and goals into a life that's already HARD.

For people like me, a first-generation low-income immigrant, life is not easy. And, if you want more than to meet your basic needs, you're often on your own.

You're looking for and fighting for any opportunity available to you. And when you finally come across a fantastic opportunity, you'll likely meet a gatekeeper. Merriam-Webster defines a "gatekeeper as a person who controls access" and they can have a direct relationship to the opportunity or an indirect one.

Gatekeepers Control Access to Opportunity

My first gatekeeper was a high school teacher.

He asked if I had a plan to go to college. I said yes and shared a list of all the schools I applied to and which had accepted me.

I told him I had been admitted to UC Berkeley and Fresno State. He asked for my SAT score.

And as a student with a C grade in his class and a low SAT score, he recommended I go to Fresno State.

He didn't think I could thrive at UC Berkeley. He was a UC Davis graduate and knew UC Berkeley was "harder" than Davis. So, he concluded that Fresno State was a good place for me.

There's nothing wrong with going to Fresno State. I visited the school. It would have been an incredible experience. I would have been in a college with Spanish speakers, a larger Latino population, a fun college environment, and hopefully, professors who understood immigrant students' complex lives.

"After the incident, I felt more compelled to worker harder to prove him wrong. But, the challenge when you're a first generation high school student and incoming college student, is that you're already questioning your ability. You are already living life wondering if you're able, capable, and if you are deserving of success."

The Issue at Hand

This video focuses on how this teacher failed me as a high school teacher, and how he successfully played his role as a gatekeeper.

He casually, confidently redirected me from a prestigious public university without thinking about my family situation, financial aid package, and career ambitions.

Luckily, I also had an advocate and an ally who believed in me.

Although this teacher and I weren't close, he could have put more effort into learning more about me before making this recommendation. Two data points are not enough information to assess a person's ability. If he had been a little more curious about my overall academic and personal life, he would have known who I was and why 90-95 percent of the universities I applied to accepted me.

Curious to know how things unfolded? Watch the video.

Spoiler. I accepted my offer to UC Berkeley and graduated twice from Berkeley. I graduated in 2010, with a bachelor's in psychology and sociology, and in 2012 with a master's in social welfare.

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