Dallas has been my home since I was a child, so every opportunity I get to return, I love to take it. My opportunity came on September 21 – 25, thanks to El Centro Community College who invited me to be their guest speaker for their Hispanic Heritage Month. When I landed at Love Field Airport I could not stop smiling because I knew I was home. My baby sister, Alma (who is not a baby any longer, but I like to call her my baby sister), picked me up from the airport. I mention her because every time I share my story, it is also her story. We were both left in America in hopes of pursuing a brighter future.
After several months of waiting, the time finally arrived to speak at El Centro and Richland Community Colleges. Both were experiences I will never forget. I am an El Centro graduate, and that school was a huge blessing to me. I gained a great set of friends, and my Rising Stars counselors helped me make it through graduation. For me to share at El Centro blessed my heart. While I was visiting, I reminisced the time Victor Rodriguez, author of The Bellringer, was El Centro’s guest speaker in 2009. I was inspired by him and his book. The year Mr. Rodriguez was there I thought to myself, “Maybe after I graduate I can return and be their guest speaker one day.” That was seven years ago, before “Left In America” existed. Now in 2016 I had the privilege to speak in their Performance Hall. I showed a video from November 2015, the day I went to Mexico and saw my parents for the first time in eleven years. I wanted to be as transparent as possible, so that people could get to know me beyond what they would read in my book. I also shared three key points that helped me in my life. The three keys were about serving, the mindset, and building relationships. I express myself with my music, so I rapped my song “Stand Out” for them to let them know they are not to fit in; they were made to stand out. Afterwards, we had a book signing, and I enjoyed people standing in line to get a book! Yet, none of that compared to hearing a former high school classmate tell me she was touched by my testimony and knew she had to draw closer to God. If that was my purpose in going, then it was all well worth it.
Richland was a smaller setting, and a little more intimate in my opinion, since we were in their library. I shared my story with them and the three key points that helped me in life. There was a Q and A, so I enjoyed that. One of the questions asked was how would I encourage someone who wanted to give up, so I pointed them back to one of my keys, which was to examine their relationships. It is important to be around people who will not let you fail. As the questions kept coming, I was enjoying encouraging the group. Yet, there will also be that one person who wants to challenge you. One guy in particular asked me what I thought about the children who were brought to America at a young age like me. He asked if I thought if they should be allowed to become American citizens. I answered him and said, “I have a hope that something could be done since we had no fault in coming to America at a young age. Our parents took the risk because they wanted to give us a better future.” As the event was coming to a close, I tried to end it by sharing my experience of how I was ashamed of my ethnicity because of my status. I told them I no longer am ashamed of who I am. I am proud to be a Mexican American. As I was speaking, the same young man who asked me about the previous question, asked me if I thought gays should not be ashamed of their sexuality. He caught me off guard because I was not expecting such a question. That moment taught me to be prepared for any question that comes my way. The moderator spoke out and said that was an off topic question since we are celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. Shortly after that we were done.
We also had a book signing at Richland, and once again people were lined up to get a book. I was thanked, and quite a few said they could relate to me or had a family or friend who could relate. One girl had tears in her eyes, and it moved me. She said she was encouraged. I knew I went there for a reason. As I get to do more of this, I remember that I am only human, and because I’m human, I am no different than those with home I have had the opportunity to speak, and those I will continue to meet. If my scars bring healing to your life, then I know this journey was worth it.
-- Dream Big; Take Action