Approximate Length of Video and Audio: 4 Minutes, 10 Seconds.
No one else can tell you what you can or can’t accomplish in life.
We can turn adversity and other people’s prejudices into our strength.
Olga’s family wants her to get married, but she wants to go to college. When she talks to a high school counselor about her desire, he tells her she’s too poor to go to college and that she should take shorthand and get a job instead.
Upon recovering from his slight, Olga decides to work hard and go after her goals. She is able to earn a small scholarship to a local community college. When she tells another teacher of her good fortune, the teacher replies that the scholarship will be wasted on Olga. Olga is deeply hurt but is able to turn the negativity of these adults into positive strength to fulfill her dreams..
- Video of Why Do You Want To Go To College? (MP4 format)
- Download Audio of Why Do You Want To Go To College? (MP3 format)
- Transcription Text of Why Do You Want To Go To College? (PDF format)
REFLECTIONS & DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
About Why Do You Want To Go To College?
1. Why did Olga’s family keep pushing her to marriage even when she was clearly not interested?
2. Why would a high school counselor and teacher be so discouraging about a student’s academic dreams? Why did they think Olga would “never make it”?
3. Olga was eventually able to listen to her own desires rather than her counselor’s and teacher’s words. When have you followed your dreams even if there were naysayers around you?
Think of something you’ve really wanted in your life but you set that dream aside. How can you investigate this desire to see if it might be more realistic than you originally thought. Find examples of adults in your life or throughout history who achieved their goals even when others said they would fail. How can you let their stories inspire you?
STORY TRANSCRIPT of
Why Do You Want To Go To College?
by Storyteller Olga Loya
Note : The transcript below of the video and audio story is not in correct text book English. It is a transcription of the spoken story. There are also a few variations from the spoken word. This text is for your guidance and reference as you start to study and think about this story.
Hi. My name is Olga Loya and this is an excerpt from a longer story called Nepantla: Between Worlds.
The story takes place in East Los Angeles in the 1950s. When I went to high school, I realized I wanted to go to college. I talked to my girlfriends about it, and they said, “Why do you want to go to college? Don’t you want to get married and have children?” My parents said the same thing. My mother was always saying: “We want you to get married and be happy.”
It took me a long time to get my nerve up to go see the school counselor. I was in the 10th grade when I walked into the counselor’s office. The counselor was sitting behind a big desk. He motioned to a chair across from him and I sat down. I could hardly speak I was so nervous. I just sat there.
Finally, he said, “What can I do for you?”
I gulped and said in a scared voice, “Do you think I could go to college?”
I hoped he would say, “Yes, there is no problem. You can surely go to college!”
Instead he said, “Oh no, Olga, you can’t go to college. Your family is too poor. You’ll never make it. This is what you should do—study shorthand and typing. That way you can work and then get married.”
I just sat there, staring at him. I couldn’t believe he had just told me I couldn’t go to college. Finally I got up and left. I thought, “Well, he said I can’t go to college. He should know. He’s the counselor.” Then I went to the bathroom and cried.
So I started to study typing and shorthand but I wasn’t interested in getting married. I didn’t want to be married; I wanted to have some time to myself. I wanted to figure out what I wanted in my life. In my senior year, my best friend got married. There was a joke in her family about me because when they took pictures of her throwing her bouquet, I calmly stood there with my hands behind my back as all of my other friends were reaching out for the bouquet. That’s how much I didn’t want to get married!
One morning in my junior year of high school, I woke up and thought about the advice the counselor had given me. I thought, “What kind of advice was that? Why can’t I go to college? I’m not dumb and I can work. How dare he say that to me? To hell with him—I’m going to college!”
I didn’t say anything to anyone but I began to study hard. Just before I graduated from high school, I found out I had received a small scholarship to go to the local community college. The day after I got my scholarship, I was walking down my high school hall feeling good. Then I saw my shorthand teacher. She had always been nice to me, and I was excited to tell her about my scholarship. I waved to her, and she came towards me. She was short and round with beady eyes. Before I could say anything to her, she walked right up to me and got so close that she spit in my face as she hissed, “What a waste. You shouldn’t have that scholarship—you’ll never even finish college!”
I felt like she had kicked me in the stomach. Anger washed over me. I felt my face getting redder and redder. I thought, “Don’t say anything. Olga. You are almost out of school. Don’t get into trouble now!” And I didn’t. I thought to myself though, “We’ll see.”
As it turned out, that school counselor actually did me a great favor. I would never have made it through college without . . . shorthand. I worked my way through school.
As for the teacher who treated me so disrespectfully, well, she did me a favor, too. Every time I felt like quitting I remembered her beady little eyes and how I thought, “I’ll show you.”
And I did! I got a scholarship; I graduated from college and became a teacher.
©2011 RaceBridges For Schools. This lesson plan is part of an initiative for educators called RaceBridges For Schools. It is a project that seeks to provide free tools for teachers and students to motivate them to build stronger and more inclusive communities. This guide may be freely used, reproduced and distributed for educational purposes as long as this copyright information is displayed intact. The video and audio excerpts and transcript included in this unit is copyrighted by Olga Loya. Used with permission: www.OlgaLoya.com