My Journey Home Armando Pena Andrew Lam Faith Adiele
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America, My Home Essay Contest

My Journey Home

Brian M.
Washington Lee High School, Arlington, VA
Sponsoring Station: WETA, Washington D.C.

This year at my high school, I have had the privilege of being President of the Latin American Student Association. It is here where I have met many different Latinos, from varying socioeconomic classes and countries. And despite the different faces and skin tones, one idea persists: The Struggle.

Recently I participated the 11th Annual Latino Youth Leadership Conference at George Mason University. The focus of this conference was the ReMix-TiNo Project, which is the idea that everyone has his or her own mix of identity. This identity comes from the bridge that all Latinos must make between their culture and heritage, and their life today as Americans. This bridge can represent all joys, fears, failures, and successes that one experiences in changing from one environment to another. This is The Struggle. While every person has a different degree of struggle, everyone has a story to tell. Each of the 400 students that attended the conference had the potential to follow a path to success. If they were not already on that path, they must re-focus and get on it. That is what Latinos must do. Break down barriers by uniting and focusing on bigger goals.

These barriers are many today. My obstacle, as is the same of countless Latinos today, is the problem with the immigration system. While in the interest of national security, I do not believe that anyone and everyone should be given all the rights of citizens, the true criminals must be identified when it comes to immigration. My family and I call the United States our home. We have been law-abiding, tax-paying members of the US society for the past 14 years. I have been an honor-roll student and a leader in my high school, but now I cannot continue. I cannot follow my dreams because I am guilty until proven innocent. Many capable Latino high school students are being prohibited from either attending colleges and universities, or paying in-state tuition rates if they are residents of that same state. Capable minds should not be wasted because they were not born in the United States and their process of naturalization has lagged. Despite what I know I can contribute to this society, I feel alienated as a minority in the US, like the stories in WETA's My Journey Home. Latino parents have worked to provide an education for their children, and now their effort is being dismissed. But this injustice is not impossible to overcome.

In Congress now, the DREAM Act and the Student Adjustment Act are being debated. These bills, if passed, would revolutionize this society. Students who have achieved certain grades and strong personal records would receive what they deserve - their status adjusted to that of permanent resident to continue their education. These Latinos would become productive members of society and motivate other Latinos to achieve their goals. While Latinos have contributed to this country immensely through manual labor, now we would do so with our minds.

With all this in mind, I hope to play a major part of this movement. The civil rights movement is not over, and it is not just for one ethnic or racial group. I want to be in the forefront to bring awareness to the potential of Latinos in this society. I am interested in politics because even though the government is "for the people, by the people," a large number of people are not being fully represented. I do have a focus on this, and even if it doesn't work for me in my college process, it can work for others in the future.

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