Let’s celebrate strength in the face of adversity. It's imperative to take a moment to praise students for their persistence, no matter what challenges face them, even when it means they could fail. So let’s meet a tutor who kept trying, even when the challenges that faced her seemed insurmountable.
Meet Vida M.!
I know you come from a family of immigrants, so I would love to hear about your experience in school as a young girl growing up in a culture so different from that of your parents.
V: Well, honestly, elementary school was really hard for me. It was a confusing time. Both of my parents immigrated from the middle east, and I went to private Catholic school. My parents wanted to send me to a school that provided the best education, but also gave it structure. But meshing two different cultures is always a task. The students there didn't really understand my beliefs or where I came from, which made things hard for me. However, once I started getting more involved in school activities the students started to realize that we were actually not so different from one another. I think it was harder for my parents, being the odd ones out since they got married so young, which goes against the social norm here in the United States. But I have one memory that stands out among the rest... It was Culture Night at school, my mom came, and I actually got to see her celebrated for her cultural differences as she taught my classmates how to belly dance. I was so embarrassed but my mom was so confident and bold in the face of diversity.
In high school I continued on into a private Catholic school. My experience there was really great, and I was actually the number one math student in my class, so they decided to bump me up into the honors class. The problem was that I hadn’t yet figured out how to study for honors classes, so my sophomore year ended up being extremely difficult for me. I was taking honors math and I was barely passing. This was actually my first brush with tutoring, only I was on the receiving end. My father tried to tutor me, but we both knew that it just wasn’t working for us. So I got a new tutor who would make me drive to her house every session. The logistics of this actually made my experience really difficult and I stopped going. So I definitely recognize the importance of the in-home service that we provide at PCH Tutors. But eventually, I was able to gain more confidence in my abilities, and I was able to grow and succeed in honors math.
Can you tell me about how your college experience unfolded after the challenges you overcame in high school?
V: That's actually a crazy story! Over the course of my college career, I ended up attending two different colleges in pursuit of my bachelor’s degree. I started my journey at UC Riverside and remained there for 2 years, participating in a Bio-Medical program. I ended up changing course a bit when my parents were going through a divorce. It made sense to be closer to home during that time, so I ended up transferring to UC Irvine. From there, I ended up graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a minor in Psychology. I took a year off after undergrad and eventually ended up at Cal State Long Beach to complete my master’s degree in Engineering.
The whole process was long but I was able to discover so much about myself. I encountered a few failures along the way, but they really helped me in the long run, and I ended up succeeding in the end.
Throughout this journey, was there anyone who played a mentorship role for you?
V: My mentor has impacted me very deeply. She’s the head of the Engineering program at my school and her story is so inspirational. Years before she became an engineer she had been planning for a wedding. But before she walked down the aisle, she was faced with a really difficult decision. Her fiancé approached her with an ultimatum: he wouldn't marry her unless she agreed to wear traditional garb that would cover her fully, from head to toe, nor would he support their daughter. Faced with this decision, she refused to marry him. She went back to school and became top in her class in her engineering program, all while supporting her daughter on her own. Even in the face of such difficulty she was able to rise above her situation. She graduated with a master’s in engineering and now runs the engineering program at Cal State Long Beach. She actually hired me for my first engineering job. As a woman, I feel so inspired by her story. The engineering field is very male dominated, and my mentor helped me realize that I can do everything a man can do, and therefore I deserve equal treatment in my field.
Vida’s story of adversity could have weighed her down, but she kept pushing and succeeded, both academically and socially, throughout her years in academia and beyond. Students are often faced with similar challenges, and every day they work to overcome those challenges is a day they succeed. So as parents, educators, and the like, let's all celebrate the students around us who take on these challenges every day.