Eladio’s Journey Toward Success
you need a little help along the way, and the toughest thing can be asking for
Gonzalez Cabrera was five
when he and his mother made the perilous trek from El Salvador to the United
States. Like generations of immigrants before them, they wanted a better
life and were prepared to work as hard as possible. Now in his second year at Santa
Monica College, Eladio is determined to overcome any obstacle — and there
have been plenty.
the longest time, I couldn’t tell the story without crying,” he says of the journey
to the U.S. Despite being so young at the time, he recalls each detail vividly.
“We had to cross mountains, and at night you couldn’t see anything. I didn’t
even understand what was going on. In my 5-year-old mind, I just thought we
were going to another part of El Salvador.”
they finally made it, and he understood this was their new nation, Eladio’s
heart swelled with pride. Yet he never wanted to forget his roots or the
culture he left behind. “My mom would always tell me: ‘Yes, we are immigrants.
Yes, we came from another country. But be proud of where we’re from and who you
Yet He Persisted
primary school, Eladio struggled with English and was bullied — an experience
that continued into high school. By high school, though, he regularly made the
honor roll. As a freshman, he applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
graduation, he thought he was on his way to studying at California State
University, Northridge. But limited financial aid and no housing support
interfered with his plans. Eladio faced a lengthy and complicated commute from
his home in South Los Angeles — definitely a roadblock for someone
without a car.
worried that financial obstacles would end his educational journey. But then a
friend suggested he try community college, and Eladio found SMC. “I came to SMC
kind of by chance, but it’s been a great blessing,” he says.
Professor Lourdes Arévalo first met Eladio at Camino al Exito,
a summer event held by the Adelante program at which incoming
Latino students and parents learn about college life and its expectations. “He
approached me and was just so excited to start his journey at SMC,” she
seen him grow in confidence since that first semester,” Lourdes says. “Beyond
being a dedicated student, he’s also become this empowered young man.”
confidence did not come easily, as many obstacles stood in his way — some of
which, he admits, were self-imposed. Because of the sacrifices his mother made
in bringing him to the U.S., he felt immense pressure to succeed on behalf of
his family. “I thought I had to be a doctor and do all these things to make my mother
proud,” he says.
this drive for success added to his anxiety — especially as working two jobs
left little time for the study required for his 19-unit course load. His grades
deteriorated, adding to his worries, which further hurt his concentration.
stress grew, but, in addition to supportive professors and classmates, Eladio
had another resource he could turn to at SMC: the Center
for Wellness and Wellbeing. “Don’t be ashamed to go to the
Wellness Center,” he often tells other students. “If you have to find a
therapist, that’s more than okay. You’re working on your mental health. You’re
working on yourself.”
aid others on their own journeys, Eladio serves as an SMC President’s
Ambassador. The group is SMC’s student face to the community — acting as
resources for new students, helping at events, giving tours of SMC, and promoting
campus involvement and academic excellence.
A Spark of Motivation, and Then Some
Professor Judith Douglas, who
chairs SMC’s Dance Department, met Eladio when he took her Dance
History course. Eladio entered the class knowing nothing about dance but
wanting to explore it because of his interest in history and culture, as well
as the need to fulfill a humanities requirement.
just had such an open attitude to knowledge that I saw something special,” Judith
says. “In some students, you see a little twinkle — a spark of motivation —
that is the embryo of success.”
Even though not a dancer, Eladio is the sort of student Judith prizes. “Seeing his
desire to learn and to succeed — despite the obstacles — and stoking such
energy is the pleasure of our job at SMC.”
Eladio wants to transfer to a University of California campus or California
State University to major in Latin American history. Just as his
mother urged him to take pride in his roots, he says that SMC has taught him to
appreciate where he is. “Be proud that you are at a community college, that you
are getting an education. I feel that culture at SMC,” he says.
“Eladio really inspires me,” Lourdes says. “He’s always asking himself how he can do
things better — how he can get the most out of a situation. I just feel like
whatever he plans to do with his life, he will help lots of people. I’m so
happy that he landed here at SMC — not only for his benefit but also for the
Eladio’s time at SMC will have been a crucial step forward on his journey to
success — but, for now, it’s also a home.
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