OPPORTUNITY

Posted by ALYSSA S. Michigan

To me, being an American means creating your own story.

It is often said that the United States is a melting pot of immigrants. For many years, the United States has opened its arms to welcome those seeking a more opportune life. Our country was built upon immigration, and continues to be a kaleidoscope of ethnic and cultural groups. The very act of immigrating is a self taken risk in an effort to better one's circumstances. Immigrants often choose to come to this country for countless reasons, such as to live in freedom, education, escape poverty or oppression, to be able to practice their religion freely, or even employment opportunities. But I believe the main reason is prosperity. The simple desire for a better life, and this country is said to offer exactly that.

I’d like to think that much of who I am today is heavily influenced by my family and cultural background. My grandparents were born in Baghdad, Iraq. My parents were brought to this country as young children. My grandparents saw no future back in their home country, they wanted to escape the war and conflict that was tearing their country apart. My grandparents, like many other immigrants, decided to make their way into this country in seek of a better life, for the opportunities and freedom this country holds. I admire my grandparents courage in making their way into a completely foreign country, while speaking very little english, with 8 children, and creating a whole new life for themselves. I like to think that it's all a mindset. You leave everything you have, everything you're familiar with and get on that plane.

My grandparents arrived here with not much more than a high school education. My grandfather immediately seeked local job listings upon arrival. His very first job here was at a coffee shop, then at liquor stores, and even scrubbing dishes in back at a restaurant. He walked in whatever open doors there were in order to provide for his family. Working long days and nights on minimum wage, he managed to make ends meet. My grandmother was a housewife, her main responsibility was raising her 8 children, in a small 2 bedroom home. My grandparents didn't have a ton of money, they spoke little english, they didn't have many belongings, but they did everything they were capable of doing to provide for the future lives of their children.

Neither of my parents, nor any of their siblings have anything beyond a high school education, but they all managed to flourish in their own ways. One of my aunts started up her own bridal shop, which is still in business today, and my uncles have opened up their own liquor stores and grocery stores. My dad and his brothers also opened up a hotel in Mackinaw City, and invested much of their time there. No matter the circumstances, they all managed to create a life for themselves. As i've grown older, I have become more aware of how hardworking my father is. As much as he used to work, he always come home with a smile on his face, he has always been there to meet his children's needs. Immigrants come here with nothing, overcome the struggles, and manage to succeed on their own. With hard work and determination, they set the example that we are able to do anything we dream if we have the right mindset.

From a very young age, my parents have always stressed the importance of education to my brothers and I, education has always been a very important part of our lives. My parents have always pushed us to succeed and do our best when it comes to school. I often think about how in a way my parents are trying to live through us, to see us succeed and pursue what we wish, in a way that they had not had the opportunities to themselves. As I have grown, I have began to realize how powerful of a tool education actually is in this country. Education is like a stepping stone to success for most people. We as Americans value education because it provides the surest path to opportunity and social mobility. My parents value education for the simple fact that they don’t want us to have to struggle the way they did, they want us to be financially secure and be able to live our lives without the burden of worry. They have always made it very clear that education would be a critical bridge to opportunity. As irritating as it may be at times, I have began to understand that all they want is to watch us thrive and succeed on our own. They want us to take advantage of the opportunities that education allows us to have in this country.

Listening to my families stories, and where there values come from, I view America as a gateway to opportunity. A place to flourish within the openness. As i've grown older, I have become more aware of how education is such a powerful tool. I understand that my parents had nothing but a high school education, and managed to succeed in their own ways, but with that came struggle and hardships. That's where my drive to succeed comes from, they've influenced my desires to take advantage of all the open doors education allows in this country. I've watched how hardworking and determined my parents, as many other immigrants are to succeed. The sacrifices immigrants choose to take in order to better their lives amazes me. They sacrifice everything, facing many hardships, and leaving the place that they once called home for a more opportune life. A life where there their children are given the opportunities and education that give them the power to prosper. I think that's what it means to be an American, having the opportunity to create whatever story you want. 

Published on Jun 8, 2018
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Writing Our Future: American Creed is part of the National Writing Project’s family of youth publishing projects, all gathered under the Writing Our Future initiative.

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