Hispanic Heritage Month and the Journey ForwardPosted by AVID Center on 10/11/2019
By Claudia Moreno, AVID Alum, Kaiser High School Class of 2009
As I reflect on my journey, one of the most defining parts of my life was the 3.4 mile walk my mom and I would embark on every day to and from my elementary school. Taking those long walks in Fontana, California meant that some days we faced the rain, others we faced the heat, and often we faced the infamous Santa Ana winds. But it wasn’t the extreme weather conditions that defined me, it was the conversations my mom would have with 5-year-old Claudia. She would emphasize the importance of education saying, “es la fundación para ser independiente”, meaning that education is the gateway to your independence. Her advice from those walks pushed me through the hard moments later in life.
I am the proud daughter of immigrant parents who, like many others, left everything in their home country in search of a better future for their children. This sacrifice alone meant I was not only getting an education for myself, but for future and past generations. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree meant my mother, my grandmother, my little sister, and future children were also getting their bachelor’s degree.
But to no surprise, becoming a first-generation college student was not an easy path. If I could not run to my parents for homework advice, there was absolutely no way I could ask them for college preparation advice. This is where AVID filled in the gap. I vividly remember that as a high school freshman I wanted to go to an online university only because that was all I was exposed to through TV. I, like many first-generation students, did not hear my parents talk about their alma mater or their grand expectations about their children going to college; instead, our parent's priorities were more immediate concerns such as having food on the table and being able to afford that next doctor’s visit, among other things. AVID, however, gave my peers and our families all the essential information, prepared us to be eligible for college, and ensured we were well informed before making the decision of which university to attend.
Thanks to this preparation and support, I had the opportunity to attend a top tier school, UC Berkeley. It was a goal that had seemed unreachable. Leaving my hometown at the young age of 18, a woman, and a Latina attending UC Berkeley was a privilege that I was not going to take for granted. I remembered those walks to school with my mom, and I knew what attending UC Berkeley meant to her and the rest of my family (including my AVID family). The photo above is a side-by-side of me on my first visit to UC Berkeley on an AVID field trip and my college graduation day.
I went from thinking about the colleges advertised on T.V. to attending a top university, and that achievement fueled my ambition to do more. So, I took advantage of the simple application process and clicked “submit” to opportunities I thought were impossible! One of these became a reality when I moved to DC at the age of 22 to intern at the White House during the Obama Administration. On day one of my internship, I realized I was one of the few interns that did not attend an Ivy League university and imposter syndrome kicked in hard, to the point where I started to cry. It was overwhelming knowing that I was one of few in my community who made it this far and I had nobody to seek for advice on how to navigate this space successfully. Nonetheless, when I was asked to serve in the Spanish Department because of my bilingual skills, I knew I was meant to be there and to serve the American people. This opportunity shaped my future and brought clarity to the work and role I wanted to serve in my community. The power we, as Latinx, have in our country is limitless but it doesn’t mean anything when we don’t use our resources and education. Now, I work for Small Business Majority, where I empower minority business owners to create new opportunities for their own families and communities.
Looking at where I am today, there is no way I can take sole credit for all that I have done. It takes a village such as my mother, the AVID family, and the friends who were there to remind me of the important things in life and why we fight for things when we are in tears or on the verge of giving up. The revolutionary act of being an educated Latina allows me to use this power to elevate the voice of my community through the work that I do. Otherwise, all the accomplishments mentioned above wouldn’t have value. So, as this Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close, I encourage you to think about how your accomplishments will come to fruition and how you will help others to follow your steps.
To hear more from Claudia, join us at this year’s AVID National Conference in Dallas, Texas, where she will present as part of an AVID Alumni Panel.
Claudia Moreno is a California Inland Empire native where she attended Kaiser High School and joined the AVID family. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts in Latin American Studies and a minor in education. Claudia has worked in various spaces both in the public and private sector and is currently working for Small Business Majority, a nonprofit focused on empowering and elevating the voice of minority-owned small businesses. At Small Business Majority, Claudia manages the outreach, education and policy efforts in the Inland Empire/Central California regions.