When I was growing up, the word college wasn’t spoken as if it was an option. Instead, we always saw it as a given. The idea of finishing high school to enter a campus was something I longed for and that my parents dreamed of and made happen.
This is not a unique story. It is a Puerto Rican and Latino experience, one that often doesn’t receive the attention, emphasis and celebration that it deserves. This is why I was excited to hear that the 55th annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade is dedicated to higher education.
Boricuas have a long and rich tradition of pursuing learning and education – from the lectores that Puerto Rican workers would collectively pay to read literature and political news to them, to the movements that led to the establishment of enduring institutions such as Hostos Community College and the Center for Puerto Rican Studies.
The fruits of that vision-of empowering our sons and daughters with knowledge-are always evident.
We delighted in Justice Sonia Sotomayor returning home last month to deliver a commencement speech at Yankee Stadium before a multitude of New York University graduates. We applauded Herminio Torres rising above his peers as class valedictorian of Hostos College. And we beamed when Quiara Alegria Hudes won the Pulitzer Prize for drama this year.
We have a long way to go. Many of our kids are not even graduating from high school as too many interests preserve old stakes in the system, instead of focus on what are kids need now, not when it’s late.
This means we have to take the cultural pride and resilience that lies deep within and channel that into a demand for only the best resources for our children. They too have the potential to become a Sonia, Herminio or Quiara.