I never imagined I would one day have the opportunity to attend my dream college.

My parents migrated to a small border town in southern Arizona from northern Mexico in the late 1990s, when they were fortunately granted a visa. Like other immigrants, they left behind their previous life as they traveled to the United States with only their few belongings and many hopes that their future children could have access to both an exceptional education and a happier life.

My acceptance into Georgetown University’s Class of 2022 is both a long-awaited validation of my parents’ hard work and a motivating force for me to learn from their trials as I transition into college and pursue my passion of helping others.

Life in the United States has always been more difficult than my parents anticipated. Their lifestyle has been rooted in enervating labor and a constant concern of being belittled because of their faint grasp of the English language.

My parents gave up a happy life in Mexico so that I may have greater opportunities.

For as long as I can remember, my father has always had the most upright work ethic. I occasionally catch a glimpse of him in the late afternoon when he gets home from working 14 hours in the scorching Arizona heat. I watch him, his slim figure hunched over his dinner, eating quietly before going to sleep, so he can wake up in a few hours and repeat the same routine he has diligently maintained each day for the past 15 years — his subdued personality an outcome of the constant fatigue he has endured.

As for my selfless mother, she has somehow been able to raise my brother and me and tend to the house while also working as a custodian at a local grocery store. As the years pass, her once-young hands have become increasingly frail from her long hours of physical work.  

For all the stresses it brought upon my parents, this rigorous lifestyle also helped cultivate my ambitious dreams.

Together, my parents prioritized my education and gave me the best life I could have asked for. When I was accepted to Georgetown in late March, I felt their long-held dream had finally been fulfilled: My acceptance letter validated the harsh life they chose to endure as a sacrifice for my own.

As I begin to transition into college, I hope to exemplify the traits my parents constantly instilled in all of my endeavors. Their work ethic, diligence and selflessness are values I dream of developing in my own life, so I may follow in their footsteps as I continue pursuing my passions and seeking personal growth during my study at Georgetown.

I wait with excitement to join a community of passionate individuals and to form friendships with those who have faced similar adversities. In this pursuit, I look forward to joining the Latin American Student Association so that I can discuss these upbringings and struggles that are predominant within Latin cultures with others who have also lived them and a result of them.

Furthermore, I wish to use my experiences as a first-generation college student and a son of immigrants to disprove the many stereotypes surrounding my nationality. To show that a Mexican-American student is capable of both attending college as well as contributing back to society, and that we do not all fit the negative portrayal that is commonly broadcast of us.

Moreover, I am determined to infuse my Georgetown education with the values my parents demonstrated to help those around me: migrants, the hopeful and the ones who live in the shadows, because within them I see my family. This passion of helping others was fostered by my parents’ unconditional love, and I hope to spread it to others.

I am indebted to my parents and the country that has provided me every opportunity. I look forward to giving back.

J. Martin Peralta is a member of the Class of 2022. He will begin attending Georgetown in fall 2018.

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