The Puerto Rican Day Parade is here for another year and everyone will be out and about celebrating their heritage. This year the headline especially caught my eye when I saw, “National Puerto Rican Day Parade”- Puerto Ricans in Higher Education. For a proud Puerto Rican this was like the sofrito in my rice. Of course this was an eye catcher because Education is the driving force behind all of what I have accomplished. It’s important within every heritage to stress the importance of education and the benefits that it has on our future.
As expressed on www.nationalpuertoricandayparade.org through higher education the community progresses, as well serves as a source of empowerment that greatly improves social and financial conditions for those with higher aspirations. This is a great way to get the word out and stress the importance of continuing education to not only our people but to all people. We must reach our young people and explain, model, support, and mentor them in knowing that without education and only a high school diploma where could they really go?
The importance of education must be instilled from the very beginning. For me, that was through my cousin Grisel who attended La Universidad Interamericana Recinto de Arecibo, in Puerto Rico. It gives me great pride to recall when she began her college journey. Every year we would visit Puerto Rico during our summer vacation. That year was even more special because our cousin was going to college and staying in a dorm. We were so excited for Grisel, watching her pack and talking about who her roommates would be. I especially remember the drive and us stopping to eat a few cuchifritos (a variety of fried foods) and freshly made fruit juices. There were emotions of all sorts mixed in one during that trip. We were going to miss her because that meant that our vacation time from her would be cut short- school started in August for her, yet we we were so very proud of her.
Grisel was majoring in Criminal Justice as she always had a love for law, and criminology. She always said seeing my father as a police officer inspired her as well. Here she was inspiring me but all along she had someone who inspired her as well. This is where it all begins- mentors, role models and us supporting her journey. That summer we traveled back and forth from Vega Baja- Brisas de Tortugero to Arecibo to bring her more of her things, and treats to get her through her semester. I observed Grisel, her spark and love for learning was infectious. I wanted that same feeling and I aspired for more, I was driven through her. She shared the late nights of studying and showed us her textbooks. She was opening up my mind to all of the possibilities of what an education could and would do for me which leads me to where I am today.
Grisel graduated from college and all along I thought she graduated with her Master’s because quite frankly from her I expected nothing less. When I graduated with my Master’s from New York University I remember expressing to my Titi Annie how Grisel had paved the way for me and I heard her voice all those late nights of studying. Alas, I was where Grisel motivated me to be- what I didn’t know is that she graduated with her Bachelor’s and I was the first in the family to graduate with my Master’s. Grisel instilled that idea of “higher education” in me- she mentored and explained to me by answering all of my curious questions, she modeled by working hard each day, she supported me in all the choices I made. She was not present to witness me receive my Master’s physically but that day the heavens were a bit brighter. Wherever she was I know that she knew she left me with a sense of confidence and a model to continue on to my children. She was my “Sabor for Education”