Junior Alejandra Grande is a first generation university student, double majoring in Education Sciences and Spanish. Encouraged by her parents to pursue the American Dream, she is excelling in her studies, pursuing a variety of undergraduate employment and club opportunities, and contributing in a leadership role as encouragement to other Latinx students.
Below, she shares her perspectives on her educational journey.
I am the oldest daughter of three, of two parents who immigrated to this country for a better future for their families. On May 26, 2016, I graduated from Katella High School in Anaheim and I fulfilled a part of my parent’s American Dream. I come from a majority Latinx community and coming to UCI and moving away from home was quite a culture shock. It was a big challenge for my parents to let their first daughter move away onto a college campus. Not only was it hard for my parents but is also was hard for my little sisters, who are currently sophomores in high school. I have always tried my best in school and as a person to be an exceptional role model for them and be there to support them as a big sister. I have paved a path that they are following and making their own out of it, and I know they will achieve great things. Being the oldest, and first to apply to college, was a huge challenge for my parents and me, but luckily, we used the resources provided by my high school and I also learned a lot about college through AVID, a college prep class I was a part of for five years in high school. With the support and motivation of my parents and my determination and perseverance, I graduated top of my class, with honors, and I knew that I could continue striving in college.
Fifteen years ago, when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answers ranged from astronaut, to princess, to a pediatrician. I didn’t really know what college was or how I could get a career. As I got older, I learned that in order to have a career, one had to go to college. Throughout high school when teachers, counselors, and colleagues were consistently asking what I wanted as a career, I said “a bilingual teacher”, and I would get some puzzled looks saying “Really? A bilingual teacher?” Even my parents were startled with my answer because they wanted me to study to be a doctor or a lawyer, but none of that interested me. I knew I wanted in some way work with children, and from the Latinx background I have, I know how important it is to maintain one’s first language and the benefits of being bilingual, so I figured that the best option for me was a bilingual teacher.
I didn’t really know what it meant to be a bilingual teacher, besides the fact that the class was taught in English and Spanish. Once I started college and started taking Education classes, I learned that the content interested me and that bilingual teachers are in high demand. I also knew that in order to know if Education was really a field I wanted to work in, I had to get some field experience, so I found an internship in a program that offered teaching in a Spanish Dual Immersion classroom. Since I started my internship my first year, I have tried to get as much field work experience as I can with students in different age groups and environments. Last year, I also took a field work class where I went into a dual immersion classroom in an elementary school as a tutor. I want to be exposed to different experiences to learn which one I enjoy the most and what I work best with. As far as the experiences I have had in my job, internship, and as a bilingual tutor, I have enjoyed every single one of them and I have observed the impact one has on a student as a teacher.
I chose to attend UCI because of the specific Education Sciences major that other universities I had in mind weren’t offering. The fact that UCI had its own School of Education convinced me that UCI had what I wanted. I remember when I visited UCI, for a tour, I fell in love with the campus! I felt a sense of comfort and welcoming environment as I walked around Ring Road, and my parents really liked the school as well. I felt like it was the campus for me, compared to other few campuses I had visited. When I started, I was also offered admission into UCI’s Campus-wide Honors program, where I have been exposed to topics outside of my major.
Currently, I am attending UCI as a first generation, third year Education Sciences and Spanish double major with a minor in Bilingual Education. My majors and extracurricular activities reflect the career I am pursuing. When I came into UCI I got my first job as a Teacher’s Assistant. I have been working at one of the UCI day care centers, the Children’s Center, where we work with 2 ½ - 5-year-old children, since the Spring quarter of my first year. In addition to my job, I have had an internship with Global Connect at UCI since fall quarter my first year. This year, my third year involved, I am a site-supervisor for a 9th grade dual immersion classroom. Other interns and I go to the site school in Laguna Hills once a week, go into the classroom, and do lectures and workshops with the students about global issues and events around the world, in Spanish.
In regards to extracurricular activities, I have been a part of Bilingual Teacher Student Association (BTSA) at UCI since my first year, and a member of Hermanas Unidas since my second year. This year I am one of the Co-Presidents of the Bilingual Teacher Student Association, BTSA@UCI, where our purpose is to create a community for students who are interested in becoming bilingual teachers and to provide resources for those who are pursuing that career. The BTSA Board, the Co-President, and I all are working towards increasing the resources, opportunities, and the community of bilingual Anteaters interested in bilingual education. In my second year attending UCI, I decided to join a club on campus called Hermanas Unidas, where I found a group of Latinas, like me, attending UCI as a minority, with the goal of empowering Latinx women. This organization has given me academic, emotional, and social support, and it has given me access to new experiences, opportunities, and new friendships.
It’s hard to believe that I am half way through college, already in my third year! After graduating in June 2020, I am looking forward to working on my master’s degree. One of the programs that I am most interested in, and will be applying next year, is UCI’s MAT program. Now when someone asks me what I am studying to be, I say that I want to be a Bilingual teacher at a dual immersion school. I can’t wait to be a teacher and have my own classroom! I can’t wait to make my parents proud, make all their hard work pay off, and have their dream of coming to this country for a better future come true! From all the hard work I have put in and with everything I have on my plate, I have learned that in order to achieve what I want, I need to continue having a strong initiative to take action and stay motivated to achieve my goals. Like my parents always say, “Échale ganas!”