California Educator

June/July 2022

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Page 19 of 59

I was born in Saudi Arabia to Filipino parents. I come from a lineage of immigrants, carrying my family 's intergenerational stories: goodbyes, resistance, pack- ing, repacking, fast food, paid in cash, pillows on hard floors, and education as social mobility. I also internalized my parent's relentless message that I "had" to attend college. I was responsible for my family 's legacy because they brought me to the U.S., risking it all. It's what we call in Tagalog an utang na loob — a debt of the soul. And so here I am. The first in my family to navigate the U.S. educational system. Since my family wasn't fluent in higher education discourse, most of this journey occurred on my own. This made me feel simultaneously connected and alone. As a first-year student at UC Santa Cruz, my family didn't have enough cash to last me the year. I was able to get a paid internship with the Student Diversity and Inclusion Program, a space for undoc- umented students who were unable to access paid work and federal financial aid. Soon I realized I wasn't alone. I had a community of people in similar situations. Together, we learned how different populations are affected by dominant systems of colonialism and capitalism. We learned about anti-Blackness, classism, and cultural appro- priation. I soon found myself leading seminars about meritocracy in K–12 education and White supremacy through assimilation. Today, I am finishing up a master 's degree from UC Berkeley. This summer, I hope to be in my first class- room, teaching middle or high school ethnic studies. I want to provide my students — particularly those who are marginalized — with an opportunity to succeed by teaching a full and accurate history, filled with stories that have challenged dominant systems. This is one of the things I value about the United States: BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), women, and queer folks can challenge the norms of the country and help our students redefine what free- dom means. "I was responsible for my family's legacy. It's what we call in Tagalog an utang na loob — a debt of the soul." The Vision Versus Reality: JERICO "KžG" KEELERžGARCELLANO 18 Feature

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