Jihmmy Sanchez '17
Waukegan High School, Illinois

"Si no quieres estudiar entonces te vas a tener que poner a trabajar!" "If you don't want to go to school, then I don't have a choice but to take you out and you'll have to work!" This is what my dad told me when I was an eighth grader. The words cut deep and hit me where they hurt. Why was he telling me this? Because I deserved every bit of it. I was at a point in my life when I was very immature. I was a bad apple, a wannabe thug, and a class clown.

I have never been a small kid. I was used to being the biggest kid in my class. This followed me all through middle school. When I was an eighth grader, I took advantage of this and used the size of my body to inflict fear in other students. I was a bully. My school had a zero tolerance policy for bullying, so every time I got in trouble, I would automatically receive a day of suspension. By the middle of the school year, it seemed like I was spending more time out of school than I was in. The school district was ready to expel me. Not only was I going to have to redo my eighth-grade year, but I wasn't going to be allowed to enroll in my school district. This meant that my family would have to pick up their lives and move it somewhere else. What kind of reputation was I leaving for the Sanchez name? As soon as I would leave middle school and enter high school, my sister would be entering middle school. She didn't deserve to cross the threshold of elementary to middle school with a bad reputation waiting for her.

On the days I did go to school, I would always show up to class late or not at all. I lived less than a mile from school, so I didn't take the bus. Both of my parents worked early; by the time I had to wake up for school, they were on their way out and headed to work. This meant that if I chose not to go to school I could stay home. Now, not only was I about to get expelled for bullying, but also because of my poor attendance. And because I was rarely in class my grades were suffering, lowering my GPA and almost making me ineligible to graduate and move on into high school.

With all the stress of strenuous work and paying bills on time, my dad now also had to worry about what was going on with me. He was constantly receiving phone calls from school teachers and counselors, constantly having to take days off of work to have parent/teacher meetings. All of this was driving my dad crazy. He was at a breaking point. It was only after he told me that if I was going to waste his time and money going to school only to act insubordinate, then I should man up and bust my ass working. Endure what he has to endure for ten hours every day just to barely make enough money to put food on the table and a roof over my head.

It was these words that put me in a very doleful state of mind. After that talk from my dad, I actually took the time to sit down and evaluate the things I was doing and how they were going to affect me and the family I love. It was the summer before my first year of high school that I broke down and did nothing but cried. Cried because of the position I put my dad in, the way I made him look, the way I made him feel. Cried because my dad abandoned the life he had in Mexico to migrate to this beautiful country, to strive for the American dream. My dad left his family at the age of 17 and endured the life-threatening journey of crossing the U.S. - Mexican border, where he encountered death for the first time: an image he says would not let him sleep for months, and an image he will never forget. He arrived in a place thousands of miles from home, where the language was foreign, the money was different and the people were prejudiced. He was often belittled because of the color of his skin, but he was determined to start a life in the U.S. and determined to give his kids the life he never had. And here I was, throwing it all away because of my negligence and my immaturity. I could not live with myself knowing I was disregarding my dad's struggles, all of his hopes and dreams.

From that point on, I made it my goal to never make my dad go through something like that ever again. To this day I can say that I have been true to my word. Everything about me has been a complete 180 from the person I was in middle school. The people I call my friends, the way I think, and even the way I dress have changed. They now reflect the person I am today: all of my hopes and achievements.