When my wife and I found out we were having Destiny, we were both in high school. Away flew our dreams of going to college, and we both began working to support our child. Raised by traditional Mexican and Native American parents, we were both indoctrinated to the mantra that if you work hard, all is possible. Unfortunately, our parents didn’t understand the value of education beyond high school, thus it was never encouraged of us or facilitated.
Our parents were of the generation where you could do moderately well for yourself working for a company for 40 years, then retire with a healthy pension. Consequently, my wife and I dedicated the next 15 years of our life to working.
Still, I never gave up on my dream of higher education, and slowly, I attended community college sporadically, then graduated from the University of Arizona while working full-time. After getting my Bachelor’s Degree, I had to decide if leaving my job of 15 years for law school was the best thing for my family.
It was a very difficult decision for me, as I had grown up poor, and promised myself never to let my children suffer how I did growing up in a single-parent home on the reservation, with only my mother’s income as a waitress at a local casino buffet. My wife was still working at the time, and the investment in my education with the best interest of setting an example for my children was important to me.
It’s always been about my children’s future to me, so despite the fact my wife was diagnosed with cancer in my first year of law school, despite that we went through surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and final exams and research projects all simultaneously, we overcame it together as a family.
I applaud my daughter’s courage and thank our faith and support system for helping us get through the dark times, but most importantly, I thank the unbreakable will of knowing that everything I do is for my children, and for all children of the future, and that any success I achieve is a responsibility owed to them. As a minority, I constantly talk to my children about the adversity they are going to encounter. We discuss statistics, research, and elaborate on the many obstacles they will run into in their quest for higher education, and life in general.
Fortunately, our struggles as a family have proved to be lessons in determination in themselves. Thus, my children have learned to focus on their goals to succeed, regardless of the many barriers and roadblocks life throws at you.
For this, I congratulate my eldest, Destiny, in her graduation from high school this week. She has managed to overcome tremendous adversity, and still managed to graduate with honors, proudly wearing her National Honor Society stole with her community service chords. She is an example of resilience, strength, and everything I have worked so hard for all my life. To the youth graduating this year, don’t let anything stop you, the future is yours.
“Today’s victories are not for us, but for our children; for ALL children, because they are truly the future.” -F. Olea