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Quicktime required, .m4a, 14:06 mins chair


N- Narrator
L- Lisa
E- Erik
R- Robert
Y-  Yetzenia
SFX- Sound Effects

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Y: We, Yetzenia and Jose, were given an assignment to do a documentary about something we were passionate about, something that had a lot of meaning for us. After a lot of thinking, we chose to document what it is like for young Latinos who are the first generation of immigrant families to graduate from high school or go to college. They are the first in their families to have the opportunity to succeed in a foreign land, and the act of achieving the goals that were predetermined for them when their parents came to America, is something to be noted. The odds are truly against them. It is only with the purest determination and perseverance, love and support from families, and a genuine desire for a beautiful life that makes it possible for people like us to succeed.

      This topic has been the repeating theme of our upbringing. Both of us come from immigrant parents, who have pushed us our whole lives to lay the foundation for a better life. Not a day has gone by that we have not been reminded, consciously or unconsciously, of what our parents have gone through decades ago. What we truly know is that it does make a difference, that we do make a difference.

      Making it through school and graduating is something to be recognized. Only 54% of Latino high school students graduate from high school1, which makes succeeding in high school that much more impressive for that Latino. The thing is, it doesn’t just end at that one individual. A diploma does not only stand for that one person. Graduating sets up that one person to live a better life than their elders had, but that prosperity will be reflected even more so on the generations to come. The future generations are guaranteed an American life, and have a decent shot at achieving the “American Dream.” The seed of comfort and security becomes planted with that one person, and will grow to give an everlasting fruit of opportunity and knowledge to more and more generations. This is why we had chosen to do a documentary on this issue, because it is something very dear to our hearts.


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N: The starting point of a person’s success as far as a career is concerned begins in high school. In today’s world, with the economy how it is, an individual can go nowhere without a high school education. A person must make the preliminary steps in high school to prepare themselves for the rest of their future. We had asked her what is was like just to be a senior in high school, despite all of the things she had gone through to get to this point.


L: I’m really proud of myself ‘cause like nobody thought I was gonna make it at Mountain View ‘cause of all my cuts and absences and tardies and stuff and I managed to pull it off.


N: Lisa’s family had come to this country from Mexico, like many other families in California. Because of this, she had the chance to witness something other non-immigrant families do not get the chance to see. Growing up, the lessons and morals taught to her are unique only to those who know what it is like to start from nothing.


L: My dad, ‘cause he, he came from Mexico you know and he had nothing. He started off as a janitor and now he’s a assistant coordinator at Roche and yea. I’ve seen you know what I mean he had like no car nothing now he has a nice car and everything.
I actually acknowledged and see the struggles that they’ve done and how supportive they are of me and they paid for like everything you know like they give me money and stuff for school..
Most people like they just want the money right now, like its kinda hard for their family, they don’t have the opportunity I had you know cause their parents might not be as lucky as mine to have their own you know their own stuff so they have to help them out so that’s why they drop out


N: When asked about her being the first in her family to graduate, she looked very perplex, contemplating the reality that was at hand with her being so close to her graduation.


L: It feels good to be like the first one in my family to graduate cause my brother didn’t make it, he dropped out so that was a little you know sad for my dad he like cause that was all his hopes like for my brother to graduate and he didn’t do it so like now all the focus is on me, but I really want to do it so yea.


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N: Erik and Yetzenia are brother and sister who are just shy of 7 years apart. Their parents had immigrated to the US from Mexico when they were still teenagers back in the 70’s.


Y: My brother going to college and graduating from college taught me about education in the sense that you know I never really know like how important it was you know and it’s so- and not even like when he was in college, I knew that ok he’s in college, but it wasn’t until you know I hit like middle school and like high school did I really realize that you know he went through- like he graduated when I was about to enter high school and I remember like at his graduation I really realized I was like wow, you know that my brother really did this to like do like better for himself cause growing up we were always told you know that we have to make something of ourselves that we have to do better for ourselves you know and my brother actually like went out and did that so I really I got to see like just like how important it is and that you now it would have been really easy for him you know to go you know the route of like you know a typical high school dropout you know but he didn’t like he saw what he need to do and he went out and got it.


E: I didn’t really know that I was going to go to college ‘til very late. Um my aspirations were actually to go into the armed forces, into uh specifically the air force, and USC kind of came and college came to me as a push from counselors, parents, and at the very end, at the tail end, and it was an option, another door open and when I did open that door, I just opened every single college, and it didn’t really matter where it was, I mean the worst thing they could ever say was “No”.


N: Although Erik was fortunate enough to have people behind him supporting him, he was not implying that those people walked him through every step. There were still many obstacles that he found himself striving to overcome.


E: I think the biggest obstacle was the fact that I had no information. All the information I received from college, I had to obtain by myself or for myself. Like I say, I’m a first generation so um my mom and dad didn’t know what the SATs were, they didn’t know what the requirements were, they didn’t know about applications, they didn’t know about financial aid, they didn’t know about scholarships. All of that I had to obtain on my own and then on top of that had to maintain my grades, and had to do everything, and play sports and after school programs. So that was the biggest obstacle is having to get that information, and once having that information was there being able to use it and that’s the hardest thing: is knowing what’s available to you, and I didn’t know any of that. And again like I said I came into college kind of late in the game and I found out late in the process should I say and found out well, hey, what do I need to do here and then you have to move forward from there. So, that’s the hardest thing, is getting in as early as possible is my advice to other people. Find information out now, not tomorrow, not next week, now.


N: There are many other factors that contribute to the failure of so many undergraduates.  During our interview with Robert, who is also a special education teacher and has been for many years, he had an interesting response when we asked him his opinion on the reasons why so many Latinos do not make it to graduate.


R: Part of it has to do with the way that education is approached I believe, in that, you know, school is designed in socialization more than anything else. You know, how to behave, how to read n’ write n’ how to conduct yourself. That, that’s really what school’s about.  They cover it up under standards, you know everybody should know this, everybody should be able to access information. That’s really how do you, how you behave in society. And a lot of Latinos especially younger ones, we like to be a little more independent, we’re a little bit louder, we’re a little bit more outspoken, and it doesn’t always fit into that traditional mode. Uhh consequently, if you don’t fit into that traditional mode, you’re not really.. nurtured to go to school.


N: When Erik had graduated from Mountain View High School in 2001, he told us what he had witnessed s far as the Latinos in his graduating class and what resulted of them, as well as what he believes to be the main reason for doubt among his peers.


E: There was a good maybe 50% in high school of Latinos that were around that actually did graduate high school, uh the ones that applied themselves and then carried on out from there, just based on observation that was probably cut in half, so of the graduating class I maybe saw 25 that actually went to top- rank universities, and that also corresponded there at USC as well, and I think its pretty much the same amount in college, um most colleges only have about a 20% Hispanic/Latino population compared to their overall um demographic so if you look at that um I guess there is I guess you wouldn’t consider it many if you’re thinking of the majority but there were some and there were some that were defiantly applying themselves.

While I was in school what did I think that might have hindered those Latinos that didn’t make it graduation. Um I think the biggest hinderment um obviously with college comes cost, the issue of cost, and a lot of people think because something cost that much, I won’t be able to afford it, therefore I won’t try. And I think that’s the biggest hindrance because people cut themselves short of their opportunities. and 2 is, is, it’s like anything I don’t think that its to Latinos or anybody I think it’s underestimating yourself and not applying yourself, people thinking that they just simply cant do it or its too expensive again I think that’s your biggest hinderment.   
N: A key point to be noted, as explained to us by Robert, is that it isn’t just about graduating high school, and it doesn’t end at getting accepted into college. He told us that 85% of college dropouts happen freshman year, most of which are during the second semester.


R: the easy part is getting into college, the hard part is graduating.  You know cuz a lot of people, actually 70 percent of students that graduate high school go on to college.  You know but you, you think about that.  You started with 100 Latinos buy the time they’re in high school 70, 70 are gonna go to school.  But less than 9, it’s a little over 8% will ever graduate from college.

N: Families have a significant influence on individuals. We look to our families for love and support when we feel that there is no one else to go to. We rely on them financially for the beginning stages of our lives, and who we learn our morals and ethics from, even if these tend to change throughout the years. Family is always the first to be there, so there impressions effect us the most out of anything.


E: It was very important to me to continue my education. At the time guess I didn’t really stress or see the importance of continuing my education which I think might be another hinderment  for a lot of individuals going why should I go to college I could make money now? Um but the pay off is ten times more in the end, not only the experience you I think beyond the education you receive in college, you receive and education in yourself. Um for those that move away, you get to learn a lot about yourself, you get to reinvent yourself again, you get to restart so you grow, and you mature a lot more as an individual and because of that you get to know yourself more, which allows you to apply yourself in what other realms.


R: I think its extremely difficult for a person to get into college or even think about college if they’re not being pushed by their parents.  Uh again theres theres a, a lot of my students um, are immigrants.  First generation immigrants, maybe they’re born in mexico, their parents are working 2 or 3 jobs again theres that mentality about, you know just graduate, get a job, and help us out.  You know and those are the kids who, when you’re trying to talk to them about college, they do the typical (sighs) I call It the Mexican way, you know don’t you ever think about going to college? NO! LEAVE ME ALONE.  You know you can see their father or their mother just going You dont need to go to college! We need you to work.  Uhh, so without that strong background, it it’s not gonna work, especially for Latino males, you know if you go out and get a job, its ok.


E: What importance did my family have in supporting me in where I am today. I would say everything. Simply due to the fact that again my family really pushed me to go to college. I am I first generation. So, for my family it was extremely important for me to go to college. Because I was going to be the first in my family to ever graduate from a top rank university in essence kind of putting my name putting my mark in this country.So if they didn’t keep me with as much as a open mind and support me, everything emotionally. financially, always just being there kind of as a coach, being my biggest critique as well and pushing me telling me I can do better, not to accept just what was given to me but to ask and go and achieve more is pretty much where
I’m at today.


N: Graduation doesn’t only benefit the person graduating. It brings pride to their families, and inspires their siblings and future generations to follow in their footsteps.


Y: I think that because he graduated from college it did up my motivation to go to college. You know because he was the example set and I think that was really important for him too. He wanted to set and example for me and my older sister to you know, know that its not ok to sell yourself short and just graduate from high school, that there’s more out there fro you, you know. And so, it did up my motivation once I really understood the importance of an education. And that stuff only comes with maturity and it only comes with time, you know cause when you’re like a little kid when you’re like a freshman in high school all you care about it like parties and friends you know and going out all the time and extending your curfew when- and you don’t appreciate school for what it is, but once you get older and like once I hit like pretty much this year, my junior year, was when I was like wow like you know. I need to put myself in check like this is like some real stuff that like I need to handle. I want to be able to support myself and not rely on my parents


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Y: I think it was extremely important for my brother to be the first in my family to go to college and graduate. Like, you know like I said, growing up, that was all that my parents wanted for us, you know, is just get an education, you know, be so that we’re not paid for what we do with our hands, but what we do with our minds. You know, and that was extremely, extremely, extremely important, and growing up, like I said, there was nothing but an emphasis on that, and you know it was more of like you can’t take no for an answer. And um… it just meant a lot to everybody in the family like, you know because my parents came from Mexico and they were here and then now that my brother was a pan- like you know like doing these things, planted the seed so that way his kids, you know, don’t have to trip off anything, and their kids won’t have to trip off anything, and just everything. And like, I d- I hardly- I really hardly even know how to describe the importance of it, and the meaning behind everything, because its, its almost impossible to put into words. But you can see it in like, like I can see it in my parents. I can see how proud they are to see my brother succeed so well, and how proud they are of my sister because of where she’s at and where they know she’s going, and all I really can do is just, you know, at least try to make them proud in the same way.


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