With the support of CIS, our students stay in school, graduate and go on to bright futures. They all have a story about their journey to who they are today. Alumnus, Frank, shares his.
I was born in a humble family where my father was a construction worker who worked his way to be a heavy machine operator. My mother was a Levi’s employee making the popular Levi’s jeans and then worked for the HEB Meat Plant. I was raised in a multi-family home of a 12-member family, this included my two parents and their four children, one aunt and her three children, and my grandmother and grandfather all living in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house.
I grew up in a bad neighborhood where drugs, gangs and shootings were a regular part of life. This lifestyle stayed with me throughout high school. My first language was Spanish, and it was the only language I knew until I learned how to speak English after my second attempt at first grade.
I was the oldest of four siblings, and since the first grade, I had to learn how to finish my homework by myself. My parents were hard, honest workers trying to make ends meet and didn’t have time or energy to teach me or my siblings math or reading. At a young age I taught myself all my school lessons and stayed late at school for tutoring so my parents didn’t see me doing homework in the evening when they returned from work.
Since the day I learned English I was the family translator and it exposed me to adult topics such as insurance, finance, sales and collection calls. I learned that I needed to understand these issues in order to help my family. I had to mature early to make sure none of my younger siblings had to worry or learn about these topics.
I am a Texas A&M University alumnus and Corps of Cadets graduate, and I can say that Communities In Schools played a significant role in helping accomplish this feat. As a high school student at South San Antonio High School, I was a member of the National Honor Society, Rotary Club, and I played on the soccer and football teams. I also was in a CIS program called Upward Bound, which guides CIS students through high school and puts them on the path to college. College had seemed like a distant dream, a title accomplished by others much more fortunate than myself, but I learned that college can be accessible to everyone if we have access to the right tools.
I was introduced to new obstacles and challenges that I was not prepared for when entering college. As I faced struggle after struggle, I learned that I had no one to depend on while in college to mentor me. As a first-generation college student I had no one in my family or neighborhood to advise me on how to approach the new obstacles I faced or even refer me to someone who could help.
Despite this dilemma, I was taught in the Corps of Cadets that failure is not an option, and success is measured by how many times you get up after you fall. I reached out to my CIS counselors at South San Antonio High School and my fellow classmates to guide me through college.
I was encouraged to talk to my professors, other Hispanic students at A&M and faculty. I was mentored by one of my professors and joined other Hispanic clubs. I learned that I was not the only one struggling and was provided with resources to get me through college. After receiving this aid, I realized that there will be others like me. I took it upon myself to teach others what I learned and give them the resources I had so I could improve their odds in graduating college.
CIS helped me to understand the importance of higher education. With the help and resources of CIS, I was able to find my purpose and pursue my career. I earned my bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M in ecosystem science and management. I relocated to the greater San Antonio area and spent part of my summer working for Texas A&M’s college summer program. I am continuing my education and plan on pursuing a master’s degree.
In the meantime, I am giving back to my community and my CIS affiliate by mentoring and volunteering with high school students to help them explore their post-high school options and find their purpose. I want to be the person others can go to for help in order to reach their goals.
- March 2017