I am a first-generation Hispanic woman. I was the first person in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree. A few years later, I became the first person in my family to earn a master's degree. Soon, I will become the first to earn a doctoral degree.
I have beaten the odds, since being both Hispanic and a woman can be a double whammy in terms of access to opportunity. Growing up my parents could not afford to give my brother and I much, but they did give us this: they taught us that we were equals, no matter what, and we deserved as much as anyone else. They told us that education was the key to our futures. And it was.
In college I fought stereotypes that I would not be a successful student. When I graduated, the first steps in my career in academia were fraught with tension. I remember when I decided to join a popular higher education forum, where I could receive insight from other people who were already in the field. The comments that its members wrote to me were beyond discouraging. They taunted or dismissed my decision to begin a Ph.D at the age of 24. I remember bursting into tears. I wondered whether I could do this, and whether I should even try.
Then I spoke to my number one supporters, my parents and my boyfriend (who is now my husband). I realized I had support where I needed it; the rest could come from me. I had to stop dwelling on the criticism and limitations. I concentrated on my strengths and leaned in.
Today I am 29 years old and about a year away from earning my doctorate. My research concentrates on a deep passion of mine: paving the way for the next generation of minority students. I want the work I do to encourage more young women to enter higher education—even when it is not the path that is expected of you. I want more female students to declare STEM majors. I want them to prove to the world that we can achieve anything our hearts desire.
I am proof that stereotypes can't hold us back. I hope that I can inspire others to break free of the mold and to chase your goals no matter what.