Lauren Wong | The Poly Post

Their dreams are now my reality; growing up with immigrant parents

By Fabiola Aceves, Jan. 30, 2024

According to, around 110,000 foreigners enter the United States each day and I am proud to say that my parents were among those who did. 

Being the only child of two immigrant parents shaped the person I am today in more ways than I can count. The struggles and curveballs life threw at them showed me to never give up and when there is an opportunity, no matter how small, I should always take it. 

My father came to the United States from Guadalajara, Mexico when he was 18 and soon my grandparents and his three siblings followed suit. They lived in Oxnard, California where my two aunts and uncle finished their high school education, went to college and eventually started their own families.  

My mother, on the other hand, finished high school and went to college all in her hometown of Ensenada, Mexico. As someone who grew up very close to her family, I can only imagine the toll it took for her to leave the place she has always known as home to a foreign country to start a new life on her own.  

It was six months after I was born that my mother had trouble being alone with me because she was scared. She recalls crying when my father had to leave for work because she dreaded the thought of not having anybody with her. After all, my father was the only person she had in this foreign place she now called home.  

Growing up, I was instilled with the idea of always trying my best to stand out from the rest and if there is an opportunity to be the best, I should always take it. In elementary school, I was often considered part of the “gifted” program because I always excelled in certain subjects like math and English. 

At some point, my parents tried to move me to a better school with a program suited for me, but ultimately, we did not qualify due to the school being too far from my zip code. As a young fourth grader, it was a terrifying thought to have all this pressure put on you to succeed.  

Lauren Wong | The Poly Post

My parents might have never directly put pressure on me to succeed, but at a young age I became self-aware of all the hardship my parents went through and if I did not succeed it would have been for nothing. 

In a thesis written by Michelle S. Murphy, she explained how children of immigrant parents are more likely to put additional pressure on themselves to succeed when it comes to education. Murphy wrote, “In addition, having the child understand the sacrifices made by their parents in order to provide a better education for them may cause them to place additional pressure on themselves in order to avoid disappointing their parents.”  

My parents took every opportunity that came their way in order to see me succeed in this world. While this country handed them ways to help support me, it also took away the thing I valued most: their presence. Due to my parents having to work crazy hours to keep afloat, I could sense that their relationship was beginning to strain.   

Throughout middle school, my parents went through a divorce which resulted in me living with my mom and seeing my dad on weekends. My mom had two jobs and my dad had a job requiring him to work crazy hours so even then it was never certain that I would see him during the weekend. 

This meant that I had to spend a lot of time on my own and had to grow up on my own. An article written by a former Collegiate Mental Health Innovation Council member published in Mental Health America stated, “To be the child of an immigrant means growing up faster.” Which is exactly how I felt. 

Being a student at Cal Poly Pomona, I have learned that many students have the same experience as me and it has made my journey less scary. 

According to the article Cal Poly Pomona to Celebrate First-Generation Week 2023 : “As of fall 2023, 55 percent (over 14,000 students) self-identified as first-generation. Significantly, a considerable number of the university’s faculty and staff also share the distinction of being first-generation college graduates.” 

As I am becoming older and somewhat wiser, I like to believe their idea of taking advantage of every opportunity no matter how big or small is still with me today. If it wasn’t for them, I do not think I would be in the position that I am here today. I have always referred to my parents as “my north stars” because I always asked for their guidance when making big decisions.  

I vividly remember calling my dad asking if I should take the opportunity to be part of La Voz de Pomona for my last year at CPP and he specifically said, “Duh, you’d be stupid not to,” which after hearing that solidified my answer.  

I can only hope that when I have children of my own, I can instill the same beliefs my parents did in me, that no matter how big or small an opportunity is and no matter how scary it might be, you should always take advantage of it.  

Feature image courtesy of Lauren Wong

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