Three years ago a young Latino with a very promising future passed away from a car accident. Sadath Garcia was the son of immigrant parents, a first-generation American, and was a rising star with a bright political career to look forward to. I met Sadath through friends and saw him at various parties and his fabulously planned picnics at the Hollywood Bowl. When he passed suddenly, it really shook me. How could someone with so much strength and potential be gone?
During his memorial service at UCLA Law School, I came to the realization that I needed to take a hard look at my life and what my future held. My own background was very similar to Sadath’s, but unlike his, I veered off the education path and struggled to find my place as a single mother. Throughout high school I had been told many times that I had a lot of potential but the personal and internal roadblocks that I had did not allow me to bring them to fruition. I felt that I had failed so many. After hearing the many touching and inspiring stories that Sadath’s colleagues, classmates, friends, and family shared I resolved to no longer be a victim to my life circumstances. I didn’t want to just be content with what I had accomplished professionally in spite of a lack of degree but to instead set out on a path to achieve my bigger ambitions. I promised Sadath and myself that day that I would go back to school to pursue my degree, no matter how long it took.
Shortly after I enrolled in a political science class at Los Angeles City College. My mother or sister would pick up my daughters from school every Thursday so that I could leave the office and go straight to class. It was a sacrifice for everyone and the day was exceptionally long which made my already heavy work week at a law firm all the more tiring. But I looked forward to every Thursday because I knew that it was privilege to be there. When I got an A in the class I had a hard time processing the feelings I felt. I couldn’t believe it and I couldn’t stop smiling. When I moved up to the Bay Area I enrolled in the local community college and attended class after work until 10 pm every Thursday, all day every other Saturday and had online classwork. Last semester I had class every M-Th from 8 – 9:20 AM after which I would rush to work and stay even later to make up the difference. All the meanwhile I kicked ass at work and was promoted. I took every opportunity – both at school and at work – as a learning opportunity and I immersed myself in it. After work I would spend the evenings being a mother and a partner and wait for everyone to fall asleep so that I could do homework and wake up at 4 AM to continue studying before everyone woke up. I did this for the past three years and was able to maintain straight A’s.
I can now proudly share that I was accepted into UC Berkeley as a transfer student. I cannot put into words the weepy happiness that I feel every time I think about that but I wanted to thank Sadath for being the activator that set me onto this path. I’d like to thank my high school math teacher Mr. Quezada who always reminded me that there were many paths to the same destination. I’d like to thank my life partner Ryan for being supportive in this journey, for being a true 50/50 partner in life and an excellent father. I’d like to thank my two little girls who always cheered me on during midterms and finals and whose pride in my efforts was a deep well of energy and motivation that I could draw from. And I’d like to thank the Susana from three years ago who didn’t listen to naysayers who warned that it would take forever to get an associates degree if I only went part-time or who thought it was useless to get a degree at this stage in life. I look forward to sharing my next steps as they develop and to seizing the opportunities that come my way.
Thank you for reading.
Congratulations, Susana! What a fantastic accomplishment. We are lucky to have you as a colleague.
You will make a great lawyer, since you are already a great person. Best of luck at Berkeley, but u have always had what it takes. Have a great career Susana, and don’t forget your old RHS teacher, Gonzalez!