This blog post is part of our celebration of charter school graduates across the country and their achievements. Join us in celebrating our #CharterGrads!
My extended family lives three hours away deep in Mexico while I live here in South Texas with my immediate family. But, each time we visit my family in Mexico, it becomes a wonderful family reunion. I love listening to my uncles, aunts, and cousins recall how they went from not being aware of the world around them. They didn’t know what laid beyond their small hometown in the mountains of Nuevo Leon. But, this did not stop them from obtaining their college degrees and living in some of Mexico's most notable cities.
They credit it all to my grandmother, the woman who had sewn their shorts when they had no clothes for school and stayed up countless nights embroidering dolls that they could sell to have enough money to eat. Although widowed, she was adamant that the education of her seven children was non-negotiable.
To say that education is important to my family is an understatement. It is the key to unlocking opportunities that can lead you far beyond the world you know. An education allows each generation to go farther than the generation before. My parents specifically chose IDEA Public Schools for me because they wanted to open doors of opportunity for me that they did not have.
As a student at IDEA, I have learned the value of hard work and never settling. Each time I feel discouraged or tired, I think of my family’s sacrifice and my hard-working teachers who challenge me to never give up and to accomplish all my goals.. At IDEA, I am on-track to not just go to college, but to attend one of the best colleges in the country.
Each time I visit with my family, I am proud to give them updates and tell them about my accomplishments at school. In addition to enrolling in rigorous AP courses, I was president of the Model United Nations, vice president of the Student Council, and president of the National Honor Society. I am a Finalist, a QuestBridge College Prep Scholar, and College Match Finalist. Sometimes I forget to take a moment to remember how blessed I am because of the education IDEA is affording me.
During one visit with my family, a story from my grandmother struck a chord with me. She recounted an interaction with one of the women in the old Mexican town where she lives. She says the woman was puzzled as to why my grandmother made such an effort for her children. The woman imagined they’d do as her own children had and forget about her once they found success. She advised my grandmother to not worry about their education —it was better if the kids just stayed home and worked.
With a defiant expression, my grandma said she never once doubted that her family would go on to do great things and knew they wouldn’t forget their roots no matter how far they go. Today, my choices are guided by her stories of refusing to settle for the life of unskilled labor and poverty that my family had known for far too long.
I am determined to uphold the tradition of pressing forward and looking for the opportunities that can come from advancement. I applied to many colleges and was overjoyed to see acceptances roll in from the following colleges: Princeton University, University of Chicago, Georgetown University, Rice University, Columbia University, Boston University, the University of Texas at Austin, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Johns Hopkins University, Texas A&M University, Washington University in St. Louis, Notre Dame, and the University of Southern California.
There is no doubt in my mind that the opportunities I have today are because of challenges I conquered as a student at IDEA Public Schools. I have never been prouder than when I told my grandmother that I will be going to Princeton University this fall.
As I begin my next chapter and transition from IDEA to the Ivy Leagues, I can’t help but feel proud of who I am and where I come from. I am grateful to both IDEA and my grandmother for instilling the power of education in us all.
Karla Perez-Gaza is a 2019 graduate of IDEA College Preparatory Mission. In the fall she will begin classes at Princeton University.
[Click to Tweet] Karla Perez-Gaza is heading to @Princeton in the fall as a recent graduate of @IDEASchools College Preparatory Mission! #CharterGrads