On Monday night of week seven, I stumbled upon a Facebook post sharing an article titled “Data, teachers’ allegations undermine Gompers’ college-ready promise.”
Gompers Preparatory Academy was the high school I graduated from. The 3,000-word article proceeded to discount the validity of my “college preparedness.” While there may be some correlation between the quality of my high school education and my current GPA, the article was silly and incomplete: Silly because there is no way to really prepare for the challenges you will face at any transition in your life; incomplete because it did not offer a call to action – something my editors taught me every Opinion column must have.
Suddenly, I understood the importance of a call to action on a new level. What’s the point of an over-glorified critiquing article if there isn’t a solution? The article made it seem like it was a scandal to discover that the quality of education at Gompers – previously awarded San Diego’s worst performing school – was not up to par. Thank you inewsource. You made “news” of the not uncommon lower quality of education provided for students in poor, overlooked neighborhoods all over the United States.
But inewsource’s seemingly-groundbreaking story didn’t phase me.
I have wanted to be a doctor since I was 11 years old so as soon as I noticed I wasn’t receiving an all-star education in math and science, I knew my path to earning the coveted M.D. after my name was going to be difficult. I remember being the only student to pass the Advanced Placement English language exam in the first year it was offered at Gompers. Since then, I’ve established writing as one of my strengths and applied to college as an English major.
While it’s a lot of fun to analyze literature written in Old English and scrutinize every word closely, I didn’t feel like I was developing as a writer. My essays mostly reached an audience of one: the professor.
The sweet delight of writing is magnified and moves to a new dimension when it’s read by others. I’ve always been enamored by words and somewhat submissive to them, because only through language can I express my existence, exchange ideas, explain emotions and provoke thoughts. However, no thoughts can be provoked if your writing isn’t read.
And that is what the Daily Bruin first offered me: an audience.
Applying to the Daily Bruin was one of the most rewarding decisions of my undergraduate career. The Bruin gave me a platform to do what I wanted to learn with my English degree – reach audiences through writing. I believed in each of the columns I wrote, whether it touched on race, academics, gender or the work of UCLA alumni.
Getting accepted to UCLA was not enough. I had rejections. Academic counselors begged me to “reconsider” my career goals. The statistics of achieving were not in my favor. And according to inewsource, I was not college-ready.
But the important part is that I did get some affirmation. My parents and community believed I could graduate from college and invested in my education. Ryan Nelson, the 2015-2016 Opinion editor, said yes when he made me part of the Daily Bruin. Jillian Frankel, one of 2015-2016′s assistant News editors, said yes when she introduced me to the world of journalism. Chris Campbell, Keshav Tadimeti and Jasmine Aquino, the 2016-2017 Opinion editors, said yes when they were patient with me, edited my writing and challenged me to move past complaining and towards a call to action.
I will never use my background as an excuse to not achieve my goals. But I won’t deny that being a Mexican-American female who grew up in a blighted community has not shaped my life.
At the same time, it’s helped me understand the importance of people like me, coming into spaces where you don’t see similar people. I will continue to pursue the highly male-dominated medical career and find a new call to action if my plans receive a no at first.
I will continue to voice my criticism – especially at institutions that influence policies related to gender and race equality, education and health care rights – through writing.
I wasn’t prepared to come into college. And now, as I make graduation plans, I can tell you I am not prepared to leave.
De Jesus was a News contributor 2015-2016 and an Opinion columnist 2016-2017.