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Life is never what we imagine. It takes us through detours, forks in the road, and rough terrain to get to reach our goals. We may feel like we will never accomplish what we set out to do, but looking back, those detours, make us stronger. Our Guest Post today is written by Janita Melendez, an Educated Latina, like you and me, who shares her incredible story of struggle and hardships to finish her BA to persisting through it she persisted through it all and has become a role model for her family.
I am a Puerto Rican-American born and raised in Buffalo, NY. Although there is a vast population of Puerto Ricans in the city of Buffalo, we have been strongly stigmatized. Women are just known for popping out babies and living off the system. Men are labeled as low lives and drug dealers. We are not viewed as educated people. It can be so discouraging but you have to push through it. I have been on my own since I was 18 years old. When I was 21 years old I had my first daughter while I was still in college.
I tried to continue college after she was born but due to the lack of support, I was only able to do one semester. No one wanted to assist me with my daughter when I had my night classes after work. You see, I was my daughters only support at the time so quitting my job was out of the question. I remember the end of the fall semester my aunt told me enough was enough. I had 2 options: Quit my job or quit school. In other words, she told me I did this to myself. She told me to just live off of welfare at this point. I just could not see myself living off the system and I would not let my dream die but I would pause it for a while. So, unfortunately, I had to put my education on hold.
Two years would pass when I was blessed to have the most consistent and dependable babysitter. She was perfectly fine watching my daughter while I went to work and school. She was the support I needed to finish my last semesters. I took full advantage of the opportunity and I was able to finish and graduate with my Bachelors. The most empowering moment in my life. On May 12, 2013, I graduated with my daughter by my side. I was able to show my 3-year-old daughter that you can do whatever your heart desires; Regardless of the obstacles that may be throw in your way.
I was the second person to graduate in my immediate family, my mother being the first. It was the best Mother’s Day gift I could give my mother and to myself. No other feeling is greater than hearing your daughter tell her peers and teachers that she WILL attend college just like her Mami. I am her example of a Latina Woman!
I always have talks with my now 8-year-old in the car. I tell her she is a strong Latina and she comes from a long line of strong Latina women. I tell her she can do anything she puts her mind to and I will always be there to support her. I tell her she will come across people who will question her and her ideas because she is a Latina, but she must continue on and fight for what she wants. Puerto Ricans have already proved themselves as being resilient in the past year.
An Educated Latina can take the meager resources given to us and triumph. Together as Educated Latinas, we can erase the stigma that has been made about our people. Of course, I’m not done, I will be attending Law School this year. I also have decided to hopefully launch a scholarship in my hometown specifically for Latinas. I want to continue to encourage and empower Latinas all around me. Not only for their families but also for themselves. Being Latina, you go through a lot of doubts and loving and accepting yourself as a Latina can be really hard. I am proof you can do it! It can be done! Being an Educated Latina is the most empowering feeling and I challenge all Latinas to empower themselves!
My name is Janita Melendez and I am Puerto Rican-American from Buffalo, NY. I am 31 years old and a single mother of 3 little girls. I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in 2013 from University at Buffalo and I plan on attending law school this year in Florida. My grandparents migrated from Puerto Rico to the United States in the late 60’s and have never left. I am the second person in my immediate family to obtain a degree; my mother was the first. I have been working since I was 16 just so I can buy my own things cause I watched my mom struggle with my brothers and myself. I love to do crafts (Pinterest is deadly) and I also like to crochet.