By: Jessica Cortes, YES Participant
All you really need to be successful are “ganas”--desires--as said by 20 year-old Hector Lopez who was born in the United States but returned to Guatemala at the age of 5. When he was 18 years old his parents decided to immigrate back to the United States to give him a better opportunity to pursue his dream of becoming a Pediatrician. “In Guatemala, your family must be wealthy in order for you to be able to pursue an education, it’s very expensive and there is very little help offered to pay for college like a scholarship or a loan,” Hector explained. In Guatemala Hector was affiliated with friends that were living in extreme poverty. “Classmates attended school with old, dirty, stained clothes and some even went to class with their bare feet, this was one of the saddest things to see,” said Hector with a frown on his face. He now feels extremely grateful to have the opportunity to return to the U.S. and have the chance to utilize available resources for students pursuing a college degree.
"Immigrating to the United States was not easy," said Hector with a firm look on his face “Culture in the United States is different and it’s very hard to fit in when you first arrive.” When preparing to immigrate to the U.S the utmost feeling Hector experienced was fear, he didn't know what to expect and didn’t speak much English. Not being able to speak English was the most significant barrier he had to overcome. “Having a language barrier is like being mute, imagine no one understanding you, you can’t speak or communicate, it’s horrible,” said Hector while shaking his head. He had been taking English classes in Guatemala though was limited to only learning the basic meaning of words and not actually learning how to speak it fluently. “Speaking English fluently in the U.S is not the same thing as learning how to speak it in Guatemala,” said Hector, “Imagine learning to drive a car by just reading how to drive it, it’s simply impossible.” Upon arriving to the U.S the first thing Hector worked on was reading books and watching videos to learn as much as he could in his spare time. He was motivated to learn English because he wanted to go to school. Soon after, Hector took a GED class at Hayward Adult School and passed the GED exam; without wasting time he registered for Chabot Community College in Spring 2016. With a grin on his face Hector said, “Everyone wants something good for themselves, I believe the best thing you can do for yourself is get an education.” Hector informed that he wanted to be a Pediatrician since he was just a kid. He adds,
“It’s a funny story, when I was a child I used to get sick very often so I would have to go to the doctor a lot. I admired my doctor and I used to think that it must be very beautiful to help young children not only physically but also psychologically feel better. That’s why I would like to become a Pediatrician some day.”
Hector also would like to give motivational speeches to students who identify with him and his situation. He would like his message to help students motivate themselves to pursue an education like he did. “I want to make my community feel proud. I’m not only trying to motivate students going through the same situation as I am to pursue an education but, I’m also trying to motivate parents that will hopefully use me as an example to tell their children that if I could do it then they can do it as well!” Exclaimed Hector “It would be a privilege to inspire someone. I can’t imagine how beautiful that would feel!”
I asked Hector what advice he would give to his younger self, Hector slowly placed his hand on his head and paused,
“I would tell my younger self to be strong, never doubt yourself and don’t be afraid. Todo lo que se necesita tener son ganas!”
One thing is for sure, Hector will continue to fight for an education and successful future.