Matthew Kaase | Contributing Writer

Are you inspired to learn by the vast range of possibilities that an education has to offer? I am. However, it has not always been this way. As a young student in America, I took for granted the humungous sea of knowledge that was at my fingertips. It wasn’t until five years after I graduated high school that I developed the desire to go to college, realizing that to some extent, success in life goes hand in hand with an education.

In chapter 2 of “Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez,” Richard Rodriguez, an esteemed Mexican American writer, reminiscences the struggles he experienced as a student from an immigrant family. Rodriguez starts off discussing what his home life was like as a young student. Although his parents had a vast amount of native knowledge, they understood very little of what he was learning as a student in English.

Over time Rodriguez ended up looking up to his teachers rather than his parents. He wound up secluding himself with books, turning himself into a “scholarship boy.” He spent his entire time through high school and college, burying himself in books instead of connecting with his family. Towards the end of his educational career, although successful, he realized he merely imitated what he learned from his education, lacking the ability to create views of his own.

After all these years of education, Rodriguez became lonely because he felt alienated from his family and cultural heritage. Missing his previous life at home that was immersed in Mexican culture and traditions, Rodriguez spent three months of the coming summer at home with his parents, reconnecting with his family, and heritage.

Section I: Path to Further Education

Throughout most of my educational career, I was what could be considered a “bad” student. I paid little attention in class, my homework was always late, I slept during class, and all in all I just did not seem to care. I would come home from school to see a look of disappointment on my mother’s face, knowing well that my teacher had called her to tell her that I was doing poorly in class.

I would say, “What’s wrong mom?”

Then she would sigh and say, “Can you please try to do better in school? Education is important.”

These kinds of incidents would occur about once a month, but in my head, I would always say, “I don’t plan on going to college, so what does it matter?”

This attitude I had at the time derived from the fact that none of my family members had gone to college. I felt that I could work my way up to where I wanted to be, and college was unnecessary. Now I realize that this was a poor view to have. Because it made me feel deep down that I was not striving towards my full potential. I was merely “getting by.”

Five years after I graduated high school, I realized I had not achieved the same level of success I had previously assumed I would be able to. After all, nobody in my family before me had ever gone to college. It was then that I first started to consider the possibilities for advancement that college could offer me.

However, there was one issue; I never payed attention in high school. It never affected me until I considered college, but due to my lack of effort in high school, I had little to no confidence in my academic skills. I never gave it my all, so I never saw my all. Scared to fail, I kept pushing back going to college until I met a beautiful girl named Tamara.

Just one year ago, by chance, I saw a beautiful girl named Tamara at Walmart. Within a month, we started dating. Tamara’s family moved her from Nigeria when she was in elementary school. Not only is she beautiful, she is also knowledgeable and intelligent. She is already in her senior year of college, and she is majoring in biology so that she can qualify for pharmacy school.

Tamara regularly corrects me on the differences between germs and bacteria, explaining these differences on a cellular level. Although it is difficult for me to comprehend, it reveals to me the benefits of a good education. How I wished I could hold such knowledge!

In Nigerian culture, education is deemed crucial to success. People view success based on the amount of money they make, which leads them to primarily support becoming a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. This view on education has led Tamara to study to become a pharmacist.

It was difficult for her to understand why I was not in college, and what reason I could have. She would regularly bring it up, saying, “You must go to college!” Nevertheless, due to my fear of failing and lack of confidence in my intelligence, I kept pushing it away.

These fears came from my time in middle school and high school. Because I did not do very well in class, or talk as much as other kids did. I was put in special education. I stayed in special education all the way through high school. I was eventually placed with kids who could barely read, even in my senior year of high school.

I struggled with this, wondering if something was wrong with me, and maybe I couldn’t be equally as knowledgeable as the other students. Then one day, a day just like any other, five years after high school, Tamara and I were talking about me signing up for college, but this time she knew what I was up to. We were discussing it as usual. I said I would sign up soon, and Tamara said, “If you don’t sign up and start in spring of 2017, I will not talk to you until you do.” This sparked a fire in me.

My love for Tamara outweighed all fear I had of starting college. Since I had to go to college, I’d better make the most of it. While discussing what he refers to as “scholarship boys,” Rodriguez writes, “[w]ithout extraordinary determination and a great assistance of others-at home and at school-there is little chance for success.” This is important, because he is stating that it takes a remarkable amount of effort, as well as a lot of help from other people, both at home and school, to achieve one’s favorable outcome. I, for one, would not have accomplished going to college without the help of Tamara. Her push was what triggered my drive, and I am determined to make the most of this opportunity.

Section II: Embracing Education

From the first day of college, I knew it was going to be nothing like high school. I had one thing in my favor this time though—my maturity. I was no longer swayed by the bad habits of others, nor the desire to fit in with the “cool” kids. I was now my own man—determined, focused, and ready. Also, this time I knew what I was aiming for and why I needed an education to achieve this goal. However, this approach at an education has one major side effect—change!

Within the first few weeks in college, I noticed several changes already occurring. I realized I hardly ever see my family anymore. There are people coming in and out of my house all day every day, making it difficult to focus when I try to write a paper or read a book. Because of this, I have found that my room is the more suitable place for such studies.

Considering I am a part time-student and full-time employee of Famous Dave’s, I already have limited time to read or do homework, so I have sacrificed my time with family to be successful in school. This has left my family upset, feeling as if I simply was not making time for them, as if they were no longer important.

Sometimes my family will ask me if I would like to play a board game, or sit and hang out with them, but I must politely decline most of the time. I can see the disappointment, riddled with sadness coming across their faces, but I cannot help that I either have homework to do, or must get up early for school or work. They have a hard time understanding that school or work alone is difficult, but I must balance both, as well as a relationship, and my family.

While discussing how schooling was separating him from his family, Rodriguez states that “[a] primary reason for [his] success in the classroom was that [he] couldn’t forget that schooling was changing [him] and separating [him] from the life [he] enjoyed before becoming a student.” Rodriguez realizes his education is what was important to him at the time, so he had to sacrifice what he previously valued in his simpler life at home.

It is true that education does not come without sacrifices. The time I spend on homework as a student outside of school has eliminated all free time I used to take for granted, such as sleeping, and listening absentmindedly to family while they rambled on about work or friends.

If I had put the same effort in while I was in high school, much of my life would be different now. While in high school I separated home from school in its entirety. In my mind, there was no such thing as “homework,” only school-work. If it didn’t get done in school, it would wait until school the next day. I never studied, never did projects, and never did homework. On average I was a C- student, which was acceptable at the time. If I had studied as hard as I do now, I could have been possibly a B+ student.

In his writing about how he was changed by education, Rodriguez writes, “[t]hose who would take seriously the boy’s success-and his failure-would be forced to realize how great is the change any academic undergoes, how far one must move from one’s past.” Here, he is emphasizing how people who noticed how far the boy came would acknowledge the impact education has had on him as a student, also how far he was from the past.

Section III: The Outcome of Determination

Although it is clear to me that some changes I have made in my life are non-reversible, I do not regret these changes. Because of my hard work, dedication, and determination, I have been successful thus far in my college English 1021 class. I have never missed an assignment, never slept during class, and I give it my all every time. School-work was now home-work. This hard work has helped me build my confidence as a student. I am knowledgeable and intelligent!

I feel strongly that over time, when I am not so bombarded with homework and studies, I will be able to reconnect with my family with no harm done. My mom, especially, is very proud of the hard work I have been putting in as a student. This is something I believe she has been waiting for a very long time. Rodriguez writes that “[t]he scholarship boy pleases most when he is young-the working-class child struggling for academic success.” By this he is acknowledging how people want to see young students succeed. I believe that that is all my mother would like. She is so happy that I came to college, and I do not think she has ever been prouder of me.

In conclusion, I feel that the path to academic success is a complicated road. Also, to succeed, on some level, one must make sacrifices. As a student, balancing two separate lives always leaves us with little free time. Although I wish I had put more effort in while I was in high school, I am glad that with the help of my girlfriend and mother, I am on the right path now. Determined to succeed.