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As a Latina and First-generation College Student: Going the Extra Mile Matters

I was born and raised in East Los Angeles. I have lived here my entire life. Living in my community,  I grew up wondering how can a person like me can grow up to become a doctor or even a lawyer. What would I have to do to achieve the American Dream?

In high school, as I was preparing to apply for colleges I realized that I was lost. I was not alone. I realized that my peers and I really didn’t know what colleges were looking for in a college application. We could not ask our parents about these things or expect them to guide us through the process since most of our parents are working class people who did not attend college. We had to figure it out ourselves and make difficult decisions about our future alone.

As I navigated college life and became exposed to different issues, I realized I cared about many social issues. I decided I wanted to become a public servant. But how would I even start? I had to look for opportunities in my community to get career exposure.

My innate curiosity about things and resilient personality pushed me to advocate for myself and help open a few doors by seeking internships at my local city council with my councilmember Jose Huizar and the Mayor’s office in Los Angeles. Finding these opportunities were not easy, I had to create these opportunities by networking and putting myself out there in order for these opportunities to arise.

My fellow hermanos and hermanas (peers) and I have to be extra persistent and determined to get these opportunities. We have to be fighters and go more than the extra mile to even have a chance. Young adults of color and underserved communities should not have to fight harder than others to get exposure to internships or career-enhancing programs that others have easier access to.

To start giving everyone a fair chance, high schools should have dedicated and trained personnel to provide mentorship to young adults along with collaborating with community partners and organizations to create safe spaces for young adults to thrive in. Governments at all levels need to be part of the equation too and should play more active roles in making sure youth across the country are fairly served and civically engaged. We as young adults need to know someone is rooting for us.

 

Marlen Millan-Osuna is a political science and global politics student at California State University in Los Angeles. She’s passionate about public service and advocacy work, which have become an important part of her life since she decided to pursue a career in public service. She’s worked with the Los Angeles City Council, interned at Los Angeles City Hall and participated in youth advocacy programs including Young Invincibles’ Young Advocates program in California. Marlen plans to continue bringing attention to issues that affect young adults and work with lawmakers to effectively address these issues.