Hope, Motivation and Opportunity
March 7, 2022
By Erika Arreola
I grew up in a small town in Uriangato Guanajuato, Mexico. Life is not as rushed as it is in the United States, but opportunities to thrive are limited for people living in rural communities like mine. At age 15, my parents could not pay for my education, so I worked in the textile industry. Though it was an easy job and helped provide for my family, I was unhappy. I wanted more from life.
In 2010, I arrived at my aunt’s house in Soledad, CA where despite most of the population being Latinx, it felt strange. Adjusting to a new country meant learning a new language without the luxury of my parents’ support. I decided I wanted more for my life and transformed my suffering into perseverance and resilience. I learned English and graduated from high school. I became the first person in my family to attend college. I am now the first in my family to hold a bachelor's degree.
The journey has never been easy. It got harder as I moved up the ladder. However, since my high school years, I have been blessed with a teacher who became my first cheerleader. She dedicated her time to teaching me writing and composition, reading comprehension, and lent a hand when I felt things were falling apart. Mrs. Turner’s support throughout my high school and community college careers went a long way in inspiring me to pursue a degree at CSUMB because she believed in me.
Without much knowledge about what major I wanted to pursue, in my heart I always wanted to give back to my community. So, I enrolled in Collaborative Health and Human Services (CHHS). This major expanded my horizons. I have been further inspired by CHHS faculty who taught me how to identify the needs in the community, who is in power, and how to be the voice of those who fear speaking up. I am empowered to do this work because my professors made me feel like a valuable community asset with voice and power. Because of their support, I have taken it upon myself to work for positive and equitable changes in my community. Currently, I am an advocate with Mamas de Salinas Abogan, a parent group dedicated to advocating for equitable and inclusive early childhood education. I am also a Central Coast Early Childhood and Advocacy Network Community Organizer, and part of the Monterey County Colibri cohort, a community initiative that aims to develop relationships to address the root causes of racial inequities in Monterey County. I know there is so much work left to do, but I am not alone in this work. Dr. Lopez-Littleton and many others are my inspiration. Through their nurturing and mentoring, I have learned to speak truth to power and let the community guide my work, so we can achieve the change we desire to see in the world.
My journey has just begun. As of now, I am polishing my skills. I am growing and connecting with my community, so I can become a strong candidate for a public health master's degree program. My advice to all is to be humble, be proud of your culture, and to not give up on your dreams, even when the odds are against you.
Erika Arreola is a Community Organizer for the Central Coast Early Childhood and Advocacy Network