Susana Lopez

My name is Susana Lopez and I attend Castlemont high school. I would like to express how honored I am to be given the opportunity to tell not just my story, but my parents’ story. My parents migrated from Mexico and Nicaragua to the United States in search of the “American Dream.” My parents’ struggle with their immigrant status and ongoing social and political issues have compelled me to become an immigration lawyer.

I would like to help people like my parents. My work would also give me the opportunity to change the limited expectations of Latinos in American culture. My parents did not get a formal education which prevents our family from living with a sense of stability, so they’ve always instilled the idea, “Go to college so you will become someone in life.” Although, the idea that my parents have indoctrinated may be problematic because it undermines their existence, being “someone in life” means more than a career and title; it means I will have choice and agency. I’ll also have the ability to control what I experience in comparison to my parents who have had to continue to be in a never-ending cycle of living paycheck-to-paycheck, continuously asking to borrow money because the money they worked for wasn’t enough to sustain the whole family.

Changing social expectations of Latinos is at the core of my personal and educational motivation. My life has been shaped by my parents’ existence within the confines of their immigrant status. While I’m doing homework, my mother simultaneously cooks and cleans while my dad is at work, and we both scramble to help my brothers, both of whom live with debilitating forms of autism. With so much to do in a day and so little time available, I’ve learned how to prioritize my responsibilities, from my desires.

Sometimes, having so many responsibilities restricts me from having a teenage experience like others my age. I recall when my mother was concerned about my brother’s speech development because he barely uttered a word and he was old enough to be talking up a storm. Leonardo was taken in for analysis and was diagnosed with autism.

Worried about my brother’s condition, she took Jose, my baby brother, in for an analysis as well. To an even greater shock, my baby brother was also diagnosed with autism, too. Ever since I learned of both of brothers’ debilitating forms of autism, I’ve devoted all my time and effort, in order to help them advance.

Although sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the expectations of me as a daughter, sister, student leader and athlete, I push myself to finish the day strong. I know that part of succeeding in college is being able to maintain a busy schedule. I have worked hard as a student so that I can be liberated by a college education and be a role model for other young Latinos who aspire to be more than what is prescribed.

Continuously watching my parents struggle to navigate a country that has excluded and alienated them has motivated me to attend college and become an immigration lawyer. I’ve been compelled to attend college in order to seek a career path that will not only help me seek an education, but I’ll also have the hope to dismantle the toxic perceptions of Latinos both culturally and systemically.

Reaching my goals will not only portray a different narrative of Latinos in American culture, but it also will give me the opportunity to obtain economic stability, something that growing up my family struggled with.