Blady and Hector have been friends since high school. In many ways, their paths have been similar. Both are Latino young men from East Palo Alto, California. They have similar tastes in music, particularly rock and alternative music from the 90’s. Both recognized that they weren’t like most kids in their town, and that helped to strengthen their connection.
They were both selected by Students Rising Above to receive scholarships, guidance and support to and through college and career. And they both chose to attend private colleges on the east coast. Blady went to Colgate University in Hamilton, New York and Hector went to Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. Both are graduating this month.
Yet they each approached college differently. Blady majored in Computer Science, with a clear eye to marketability and earning potential after college. Hector is pursuing his passion and majoring in Visual Art.
So now, as their time at college comes to an end, the paths these two have chosen will truly begin to diverge.
After college, Blady will be moving back to Northern California, where he has secured a well paying internship in San Francisco. The responsibility of being a first generation college graduate is important to Blady. He went to college, in part, to give back to his parents, and increase the family’s financial stability.
Hector, on the other hand, will be staying in Maine. He and a number of friends will rent a place in Portland, where they will pursue their art. Another friend will be opening a bagel shop in the area, and he will work there, and learn to make bagels.
Since he doesn’t have student loans and will support himself, Hector, feels freer to pursue his interests. Hector was initially reluctant to tell his parents about his major, and his plans. What he learned, though, when he did, strengthened his decision.
Hector’s father, an immigrant from Nayarit, Mexico, graduated from high school in the U.S. Hector’s father recently revealed to him that when he was a young man, he also had creative aspirations. Hector's father dreamed of going to college to study film. But his father (Hector’s grandfather), found that idea too frivolous, and insisted that he get serious and get to work. So Hector believes that his father understands him, and that in some ways, he is picking up where his father left off.
There is not one right path, or one right answer. Each person must weigh their choices, the factors that pull and push them, and make a calculation about the path that is right for them to take. None of us can see where the path we choose will end when we embark on it. We can only hope that it feels right for us, and that we remain aware and intentional along the way, so we can take a detour if it doesn’t.
College can make more paths available to young people, particularly first gen college students from low income communities. That can feel exhilarating, or it can feel overwhelming. Parental expectations, financial considerations, and other factors can motivate young people, can influence the paths they choose, or can make it hard to even consider the multiple paths available.
Blady and Hector have chosen their paths. They seem content with their choices, and grateful to have had the opportunity to choose. That’s all we can hope for, I think.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler…
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