We Can Believe

So today I finished my last SAT class with the La Vida Scholars program in Lynn, MA.  La Vida Scholars identifies talented Hispanic students and helps prepare them for college and the college application process with MCAS and SAT prep, as well as  helping them find scholarships.  One of the students in the program is a quiet young man, Guilver Gomez, who seems to go out of his way to avoid drawing attention to himself.  But I want to bring some attention to him.  Guilver wrote the following essay for a scholarship and delivered it at a special breakfast on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  I thought it was particularly appropriate to share one day after the holiday, the day that the United States inaugurated its first black president.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest

by Guilver Gomez Gr. 11

“Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty we’re free at last.” (Washington DC, August 28th, 1963).

The quote above holds deep meaning for the immigrants in America. It describes the overwhelming sense of joy felt by a person who finally reaches the land of their dreams after having worked and waited tirelessly to find a better life. As an immigrant in America, I can identify with the joy that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. felt upon hearing the news that laws were being passed to protect his Civil Rights in America. This joy for African Americans came after suffering for hundreds of years under slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation. They had arrived in a new and better time.

My teacher explained to me Dr. King’s metaphor of crossing into a land of freedom. Dr. Martin Luther King expressed his feelings using the metaphor of Moses leading his people out of slavery in Egypt across the Jordan River and into their promised lands. During slavery, the slaves who escaped would follow the Underground Railroad out of the South and across the Ohio River to freedom in the North or Canada. Today, those traveling on the road to freedom are the immigrants of the world who are making their way out of poverty and war across the borders like the Rio Grande River into America, our new promised land.

My path to a new life wasn’t an easy one. I was born in San Marcos, Guatemala into a family that had never delivered a baby,\ in a hospital. After I was born, my father left to the United States to work and support his family. When I was five, my mother left us with my grandmother and joined my father in the U.S.  My grandmother was disabled and needed a lot of help around the house. My siblings and I attended school and helped her around the house. When my sister was 16, she decided to go to America and join my parents. She was in Mexico waiting for her visa when she was killed in a robbery. I was twelve at the time, and it was very difficult to deal with her death and my parents’ absence.

Upon turning 14, I decided to move to America and join my parents. I knew it was going to be risky. I had to travel for days by bus to Mexico and wait for my visa in a foreign country like my sister had. I supported myself by cleaning Mexican hotels in the dangerous city of Tijuana. I missed an entire year of school, and on a day when I was on my way home from work without my documents to reside in Mexico, I was picked up by Mexican immigration officials who placed me in a jail cell, just like Martin Luther King Jr.  They sent me on a three-day bus trip back to Guatemala where I had to begin my journey all over again. Just like Martin Luther King and the slaves of America before him, I did not want to give up. I returned to Tijuana and waited and worked until I was able to afford my trip to America.

Finally, at the end of my year in Mexico, I was able to fly to America and meet my parents. I landed at Dulles International Airport and felt free at last! I started back at school and now sit next to students who never had to fight to enjoy the freedom of America, but I know after tasting freedom, I’ll never forget it.


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One Response to “We Can Believe”

  1. Jesenia Tejada Says:

    Thanks so much Tim for all the help that you provided us over at La Vida, Inc!! If it wasn’t for your commitment to helping urban students succeed in these standardized exams, I don’t know how we would have been able to do it on our own. Your passion, enthusiasm, outgoing and fun demeanor, was a pleasure to have in our program. Our students do miss you!

    I’m also pleased to see Guilver’s touching essay on the web. He really is such an amazing young man who has gone through very rough times just to be able to have an education in this country–as well as many of our other students.

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