I came back to Lynwood, California to teach at my old high school after spending six years obtaining both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as well as a teaching credential, at UCLA. As I am embarking on my second year of teaching at Marco Antonio Firebaugh High School, I am often asked why I decided to teach, and more so, why back home.
Originally, I did not plan to come back to Lynwood after high school. I didn’t even plan to teach; I wanted to pursue a degree in medicine and eventually become a neurosurgeon. My high school teachers, especially those that taught my International Baccalaureate courses, encouraged my goals and provided me with immeasurable support, especially given the fact that I would be the first in my family to go to college. When college application season began, I knew where I wanted to apply and what major I wanted to choose, but I had no idea what I needed to do to get there and I doubted myself. My teachers helped me navigate through college applications, read my personal statements, and generally helped point me in the right direction. I valued the time my teachers took to mentor me, because while my mom strongly encouraged me to go to college, she had no experience with higher education and could not help me. Without the guidance of my teachers, I do not think I would be where I am today.
The support I received from them served as a sort of lifeline in an otherwise overwhelming point of my high school experience. When I left Lynwood, I remembered the effect mentorship had on me during this time and decided to do the same for students in my community. Each year after graduating from Firebaugh, I took an active role in the annual Lynwood Alumni College Conference, which provides high school students with information about career and higher education pathways. I also visited both Firebaugh and Lynwood High Schools regularly during my entire time as an undergraduate at UCLA to help mentor students in their junior and senior years.
Most students in the Lynwood community are like me in that they are the first in their families to apply to and go to college. As a result of this status, these students often feel as though they might fail because of a lack of guidance at home. I volunteered regularly because I wanted other Lynwood students to know that they did have support, that someone did understand what they were going through, and that they would succeed despite how they felt, because I had been in their exact position. I thought of the things that were helpful to me, as well as information I wish I had known when I was in their position, and applied that to the support I was providing my students with.
My experience coming back to volunteer in Lynwood schools after I graduated is what led me to realize that while I enjoyed the medical field, working with students in the classroom was what I was truly passionate about. The mentorship my teachers provided me with when I was in high school inspired me to do the same. Teaching gives me the platform to share both my content knowledge as well as to share my own experiences and guidance with my students. It is with pride and privilege that I come back home to teach and help mentor a new generation of Lynwood students reach their goals in the way that my teachers helped me reach mine, and hopefully to inspire both past and future alumni to continue the tradition of giving back.
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