By Cristian Jaramillo
I once believed that my ethnicity was a burden in my life, a barrier between what I wanted to achieve and what I could accomplish, a scarlet letter that separated me from my peers.
Even though English is my first language, I recall the embarrassment I felt in elementary school, being called out of my classroom, alienated in a small room, and then tested on my abilities to speak and write in English.
As I grew older, I experienced society’s stereotypes: being called names, some harmlessly, some harmfully, as well as being judged solely by the color of my skin or the sound of my name, instead of by whom I was or what I had accomplished.
I vividly remember the day I embraced my ethnicity and its culture. It was Thanksgiving Day when I was 12 years old. I sat in the corner observing the festivities in my family.
As I listened in on conversations, I heard a concoction of Spanish and English around the room. Relatives were twisting and smoothly moving to the uplifting sounds and intricate beats and rhythms of the salsa music playing on the stereo. The air was filled with an exotic aroma; a mixture of turkey roasting in the oven, Guatemalan tamales steaming on the stove, and Venezuelan arepas in the skillet.
This was no ordinary American Thanksgiving, but instead “My” Thanksgiving celebration, a celebration of the compilation of the cultural pieces that make me whole.
From that day forward I have always been proud of my heritage and realize that what I have is a gift, not a burden. At times I still hear harmless or harmful words directed at me; however, now I dismiss them as meaningless for I know that what I possess is something quite remarkable: the combination of three cultures that together give me a wonderful perspective on life.
Now I have a greater understanding regarding stereotyping and I strive to not stereotype others and to never allow another person’s stereotyping of me to hinder me from striving toward my goals. Instead I present myself as a person who is proud of my heritage and capable of achieving my goals.
My main goal is to become a pediatrician. I have taken a rigorous course load, achieved good grades, and plan on continuing this throughout my academic career.
Whenever someone has attempted to limit my choices because of my ethnicity, I have earnestly fought against this and instead have shown by example that I am qualified, competent to participate, and that ethnicity should not be a negative impacting achieving success.
In my opinion, success is the result of opportunity, exposure, hard work, and tenacity. I seek opportunities, learn from that exposure, and always work hard with tenacity.
I believe my main goal is achievable and once there, I will be a positive role model for others.