I grew up in a mixed family home. My Dad was an immigrant from northern Mexico—specifically Sonora—and my Mom was at least a fifth-generation Mexican American, whose family was from the Sonoran desert in Arizona.
My dad, Armando, has a second grade education. My mom, Ernestine, graduated from ELA’s Garfield High School in 1962. Her high school graduation picture has always been a source of great pride in our home. When I was growing up, it sat prominently in our apartment. It sits prominently in my home now.
My mom attended a couple of classes at East LA College when I was in elementary school. I remember going with her to the student store and being in awe with all of the books there. I remember the school had a very cool, happening vibe. Soon after that, my dad got incredibly sick, nearly died and she became our sole provider. College ended for her. But she always expected me to go to college—she just didn’t know how to help or guide me. But she was always my biggest cheerleader.
Her expectation for me was clear.
“You have to get an education. No one can ever take that away from you. No one. And God forbid, should you marry a turkey, you won’t be forced to stay with him because you’ll be able to take care of yourself. That’s the power of education, Mija.”
My mom, the feminist.
The idea of getting an education was really my mom’s way of making sure I would
have power. She wanted me to be able to choose: independence or living a life limited by others.
She wanted me to have the choice to live the kind of life I wanted. She wanted me to have the choice and opportunity to live my own dreams and determine my own goals. She wanted me to choose everything. She didn’t want me to be dependent on a man, on a system or anything other than me.
She was absolutely right.
An education provided me with choices. My college education made it easier for me to leave a bad marriage even though I was an at-home mom with only $1000 stashed away.
My college education has given me the opportunity to have a beautiful career helping others. Because of my education, I have incredible independence.
And this is exactly what I want for my daughter. I want my daughter to have choices, to be able to live the dreams that only she can imagine. I want her to live to her fullest potential. But she won’t have those choices if she doesn’t have a high quality education.
I will continue to fight for my daughter and other people’s children. I want them to have access to resources and opportunities that only a high-quality education provides. I want my daughter and others to always be empowered to make the right choices. I want them to see the proverbial “menu of life” and know that they are prepared to choose whatever path they want. I don’t want them second-guessing their abilities, talents or whether they are “good enough.” I want them to choose what makes them fulfilled, happy, compassionate and loving human beings.
So, choice. That’s what I want.
I believe in a woman’s right to choose. Everything.
I believe in a woman’s right to choose what is best for her body, what is best for herself and what is best for her children.
In this spirit of women having choices, I am 100% committed to ensuring that all of us feminists and progressives alike stay true to our values and affirm a woman’s right to choice.
Because so much is at stake, for this generation and for future generations, I especially believe in a woman’s right to choose what school is worthy of her children.
Alma V. Marquez
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