When I was four years old I began preschool only speaking Spanish. My mother was born and raised in Mexico and my father was Mexican American, he thought it was important for me to grow strong Spanish speaking roots because English was going to be my primary language from that point on. To the best of memory, I recall learning English as a tedious task. I hated having to pronounce things differently, I had to wait until my dad came home from work if I needed help on my homework, and I didn’t have much of an opportunity to practice my new English skills at home, seeing as to my mother and grandmother only spoke Spanish. Non the less I still learned. I was like a sponge, determined to absorb and learn. I remember my dad helping me read and giving me patience which really encouraged me to try my hardest. He helped me speak and English better by having me sing songs and read menus which, in my opinion I definitely sped up the process of learning.
After graduating from preschool and eventually moving on into elementary school my parents continued to push me in my literary development. In second grade, at the age of seven, my dad had me write my very first book report on a chapter book. He took me to Barnes & Nobel and told me to pick any chapter book I wanted, I can almost feel the nervousness that ran through my head that day. My legs felt like boulders, but I walked up and down the aisles with curiosity wondering what I was going to read. My eyes glazed over at the sight of a few several hundred paged books and felt relief when I found the books that were more age appropriate. I picked up a book called Stone Fox, it was a short book about a young boy who tries to win a dog sled race in order to win enough money to save his grandfather’s potato farm. My dad had me take it chapter by chapter and told me to write a short summary after every chapter. It was a definite challenge in the beginning but it really helped me grasp the content of the book. Eventually, after finishing the last chapter, I was able to re-read all of my summaries and write a single page book report and turned it in for “grading”. After my father read it he congratulated me on my first book report and told me that he knew I could do it. It was a very positive feeling which gave me optimism for future literary challenges.
My next academic affair presented itself in fifth grade; I was ten years old and it was my first science fair. I boggled my mind for what seemed like weeks trying to figure out what my presentation was going to be on. My inspiration came from a photo we had in the living room of some family in front of a volcano, I asked my dad about the photo and he told me the photo was taken in Hawaii in front of the big island’s active volcano. Fascinated with the thought of an active volcano I was determined to learn as much as I could about volcanos and make a model. My dad took me to a local hobby shop and helped me pick the model I wanted to build from there we ran through several trial and errors trying to create and maintain the perfect explosion. Making my presentation board came next, there was a lot of information on volcanos I waned to cover, so much I became overwhelmed. When that happened my dad told me to take a deep breath and take it step by step and only use crucial and relevant information. While helping me make my presentation board my father stressed the importance of key points, good grammar and creativity with a little humor to keep it fun. Finally, the day of the science fair came, I dressed in a lab coat with big safety goggles on featuring some “burn/smudge marks” on my face for the authenticity of a geologist, I was feeling really nervous as the judges came closer and closer to my project. The butterflies fluttered in my stomach to no extent. Luckily I had my dad there for support. He gave me another useful piece of advice and said “Don’t be nervous, you worked so hard on it, be proud, tell the judges what you have learned and present with enthusiasm!” so I did and it wasn’t so bad, I got good reviews, won a ribbon and to this day, can still tell you about the different types of volcanos, different types of lava that spews from them, the types of eruptions and where to find them.
Within the next following years my relationship with my father unfortunately became rocky. We were on two different ends of the spectrum with tough times ahead of us and were unable to see eye to eye on many disputes. Although we hit rough waters that sank our relationship boat I will never forget the life lines he gave me: when encountering new situations, I remember to be persistent and ask for help when I need it like when he taught me to read and speak English. I learned to take things step by step so I don’t get overwhelmed, to take notes on everything I can like when he pushed me to do my first of many book reports for him and finally, but most certainly not the last lesson he taught me, I learned to be enthusiastic about the things I learn and have pride in the work I do and myself.
To this day I find myself fortunate enough to have my dad transform from my literacy sponsor as a young child into my compass of wisdom which I can rely on in adulthood for direction, help, and tips on anything from how to apply for internships to how to fix a light fixture in my home. I am really lucky to have had such a patient father who helped me as much as he could academically, stood by me with emotional support, loved me unconditionally, and who taught me perhaps the most important lesson of all: self confidence.