Friday, February 8, 2013

Barrio Writer: Natalie Sanchez Valle Shares Her Story!

We are excited to have our Barrio Writer, Natalie Sanchez Valle,share her story. We are super proud of her accomplishments and who is currently attending UC Berkeley. Look out world she is out on her feet making a difference! 

Natalie Sanchez Valle was born to two immigrant
parents on July 19th, 1992 and blessed with two adoring siblings. She had always been very shy growing up until she was accepted to Early College High School in Costa Mesa, CA, where she realized that the world was only as scary as she made it out to be. Doing everything from student council, to journalism, and being a representative in Coastline Community College’s Sustainability Committee, she aspired to learn more. This drove her far away from Orange County to Berkeley, California where she is currently pursuing a Bachelors degree in Sociology from the University of California, focusing her studies around conflict and violence in communities of color. In her free time she enjoys music, nature, writing and tea.

I watched the pan sizzle as the odor of waffles filled the room and people traded yearbooks and took pictures on their new iPhones. It was my last day of high school and this was the way I was spending it, cracking my knuckles, hunched over a styrofoam plate with a cold bitten waffle. I wasn’t hungry. In fact I was angry. I was frustrated. I thought the worst: having to stay in community college which was code for a trapped, cynical cycle of debt and remorse plus a part time doing half-assed service jobs until the day I had children who would grow up hating me for raising them in this boring suburban town. 

I was bitter because my dream school since I was in 7th grade had rejected me and my only chance of going away to college after graduation was on the line. After countless hours of being on the phone, my counselors broke the news to my mom and I that the admissions officer from [college whose name doesn’t matter] couldn’t do anything for me and that I would have to pay ten grand a year on tuition because of some paperwork they claimed to have never received. For the last time, I walked passed the empty cork boards and college pennants whose placement on the walls I had memorized. But unlike all the other times, this time I left with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment and discontent. My first fear was to have to face them. My peers. I didn’t want their pitiful looks or pep-talks, but that was all anyone could offer me. The first two pages of my yearbook say something to the affect of, “Have fun at college” as well as some heartfelt messages and memories. Not even half an hour after I was given the news, everyone had found out (because my school was just that small) so by the third page, people were consoling me rather than congratulating me. 

I woke up the morning of graduation with puffy eyes as I dragged myself out of bed and walked to the auditorium for rehearsal. I was feeling better as I joked and took note of the last moments I would spend in the same room as most of those people. Then I looked up at the projector with my name and picture blown up next to what would have been my plans after graduation, and all those thoughts came back and lingered as I ran down the ramp to avoid any more embarrassment. To top it all off, that summer I had a fall through with some of my closest high school friends who were less than encouraging to my already self-deprecating behavior. Whenever I’d work myself up to do something productive I would think: I’ve lost everything, so it can’t hurt to try. I know that by this sentence you are probably thinking I was an overly-dramatic teenager, and that might have been partially true, but I genuinely thought that doing well in school was my thing. I thought that being at the top of my class and getting As and outdoing my own achievements was what made me unique. 

I hate to admit that I threw tantrums after almost every school awards ceremony because three awards just wasn’t enough. But that summer I realized that what actually made me unique was my passions and personal life experience. Once I realized that, I was able to have the confidence to ask for help, to have the drive to improve and to attract positive relationships with people that would cheer me on in whatever I wanted for myself. The first week the office at my community college was open in late August of 2010, I made an appointment with a guidance counselor. After a warm hello, I introduced myself as being in a program where I had been taking community college classes during my years in high school. She smiled and signaled me to take a seat but instead I opened a purple accordion folder filled with school pamphlets and took out an excel sheet that listed all the schools I was planning to apply to and relevant information on each. My third sentence went as follows: “I plan to graduate by June and go to one of these. I have no idea how, but I’m doing it and you have to help me.” Her face told me no one had ever said that to her before. 

I shared my story to my spiritual community and by making myself available and asking whether anyone was hiring, I was able to work at an office during my time off of my full-time school schedule. I saved up enough for a train ticket to Northern California and again, by simply asking, a friend was kind enough to host me for a week while I went on college tours and got my first taste of the sweet sweet bay area air (and transportation system). I graduated with honors and was accepted to all but one college I applied to for Fall of 2011. I recall doing a little victory dance with my counselor after my last acceptance letter came in. She told me she wasn’t used to going to the community college commencements and we said our good-byes, but I was pleasantly surprised to see her with tears in her eyes as I walked along with fellow graduates of all ages all, sporting blue caps and gowns. 

If there is one message I am trying to get across, its not simply: “if I can do it, you can”. I did it not because I was “born smart” or because I had college credits on my transcript since I was 14. 

I had to actively
1) believe in myself 
2) surround myself with people that believe in me, both of which took a lot of effort and patience. 

And if you happen to be reading this right now and saying but I don’t have anyone that supports my dreams.

Hi, my name is Natalie. There, that’s one.