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Carmen Corona: An Inherited Dream

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Carrying on a family legacy through her name, Carmen Corona reflects on the pride in being a first generation college student.

Before high school, I’d likened the “highest level of parents’ education” question on surveys to just be an unimportant requirement. Growing up in my close-knit school and community in Richmond, my classmates and I were all just renditions of the so-called “American Dream” of our families – that was the norm.

But I slowly began to realize that being first-generation in my family was more than just a checkbox, but rather, a defining part of my cultural identity and heritage.

My parents came to the United States from Mexico at the age of 13 and 14. When they began working and going to school, they never stopped. Even today, they take each opportunity they can get to learn, to work, and give their all each time. Their desire for a better life has transcended decades, countries, and it isn’t going to stop with them. My cultural identity lies in being Mexican-American and in being a first-generation student, and carry that with pride. It means that when I graduate, I’ll be doing it for the people that couldn’t; for those that were too busy taking care of their families, too busy working.


My name, Carmen, is a name that has been passed down for generations in my family. It was given to my mother and my abuelita. My identity revolves around the American Dream not coming true in just one generation, but rather over the course of decades, around the vision of my kids being able to check a box different from what I put on those questionnaires, and around the fact that the name “Carmen” on that college diploma isn’t just going to represent me, but the two other women with that name that got me there, because while on paper, I inherited a name, deep down, I inherited their dreams, too.

With a Perspective, I’m Carmen Corona.

Carmen Corona is a sophomore at Middle College High School in San Pablo. Her piece was produced with free curriculum from KQED Youth Media Challenge.

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