This post marks the ninth entry for the current Roots of Hope blog prompt: "My Wish for Cuban Youth."
By Karla Vergara
Commencement weekend at Cornell University begins next Friday. As I have spent the last couple of days reflecting on what has truly been an incredibly enlightening four years, I can’t help also invoking the memories built at the start of this journey. I came across Cornell when I was about fifteen and I still didn’t quite know what I wanted out of life. Coming from Puerto Rico to the U.S. for a three-week summer college program didn’t seem like a decisive step to take back then. Never did I imagine that that summer would shed light upon what became my dream.
I attended a private school in Puerto Rico, where most kids who graduate stay within the public university system on the island. And, while said system does offer quality education, I realized early on it wasn’t for me. Then I found Cornell. Or Cornell found me.
Needless to say, being accepted into Cornell University became the goal that defined me through high school. And on the evening of December 15th, 2006, with my best friend by my side, both drenched in sweaty schoolgirl uniforms, I stared blankly at a screen that whispered that my dream school had accepted me: “Congratulations! It is with great pleasure that we inform you that you have been accepted into Cornell University’s College of Arts & Sciences!” With one sentence, I had become an admitted student, projected to graduate in May 2011.
That seems like it only happened yesterday, and here I stand—4 years later. Four years of arduous reading, writing, thinking, crying, laughing, and all those things that are supposed to compose one’s enriching college experience.
There is only a week left until graduation. I constantly find myself looking at the countdown that is annually posted on Cornell’s website for the graduating seniors, wishing the countdown would move a little faster. I constantly tell my friends back home what an excruciatingly painful four years it was. I often repeat to myself, “I can’t wait to start my life!” And then I stop.
At least I had the opportunity to fight for what I want. At least I had a choice. At least I am graduating from the school of my dreams. At least I am now able to choose what I want for myself. How many young adults around the world, in Cuba, wouldn’t love a chance to reach for what I have? And why is it that they can only wish and dream without ever getting to experience the feeling of accomplishment I had when I looked at that computer screen that night? Today, I have a new dream, a new hope: giving my counterparts in Cuba the same opportunities of chasing after their dreams.
Dreaming is everything, and yet meaningless if the dream is out of reach. An education is priceless, but worthless if it does not inspire us to dream further. The fact that I was able to make my dream a reality translates into an undying sense of duty I feel towards those who, no matter how hard they fight or how loud they cry, are not heard.
Karla was born and raised in Puerto Rico and is currently a graduating senior at Cornell University, where she majored in Asian Studies and minored Latino Studies. She is currently in the process of moving to Miami and preparing for law school admissions and is extremely excited to continue to empower Cuban youth on the island.