Melissa’s nickname is Guerrera (Spanish word for warrior). Her 11th grade English teacher gave it to her, and it stuck.
Melissa attends Point Loma High. She has been accepted to Cal Poly Pomona, Chico State, Grand Canyon University, Northern Arizona University, SDSU, and UC Merced. Though she is still waiting to hear from other schools, she has already made her Ama incredibly proud.
If Melissa decides to leave San Diego for college, she will miss movie nights with her family and dance parties with her Ama the most! Melissa is interested in studying Social Work, Psychology, or Chicano Studies. She loves working with people and wants to uplift and strengthen underserved communities.
I speak with a thick Mexican accent. Most of the time, it’s Spanglish rather than English. Growing up with Spanish being my first language has been a strenuous journey. It has affected both my academic and social life. Every year in school, reading and writing became more challenging. I struggled in classes. Learning new material is not easy when you do not know half the words in a paragraph. Having limited guidance at home didn’t help either. My mother is unilingual in Spanish. She was only able to attend school until the eighth grade because her mother was too poor to pay for school in Tijuana, Baja California. My father, who is bilingual, focused on drugs rather than words.
Not knowing what words meant made me crave learning English. I craved words that made me aware. I wanted to understand what my classmates were talking about. I wanted to sound like them when I spoke. I wanted to engage in conversations without tripping over my words and feeling insecure. I especially wanted to succeed in school. So, in a daily journal, I practiced writing. I wrote about anything just so I could work on sentence structure. I watched cartoons to pick up the language. When I was alone, I read aloud so I could perfect my pronunciation. I did everything in my power to make my work stronger—from editing my papers at least seven times to googling words before using them in a sentence. Teaching myself allowed me to maintain A’s and B’s. I am now able to challenge myself by taking AP classes which I am excelling in.
I have worked hard to find my voice. At times, when I speak, I know I am being judged by the way I sound. I get perplexed looks from people who are trying to decipher my words. My voice is not perfect, but I have realized that it is powerful. My words are important. I now see my accent as a piece of my unique identity. Recently, I stood in front of my AP Literature class and recited a poem that I wrote. My peers and teacher complimented me on my delivery because I spoke confidently. I have learned to love my thick Mexican accent.