Who do you invite; who do you not invite? What do you get for the graduate? Why is it that the best way your fun-loving tío can think of to say “congratulations” is with a big goofy balloon and a blow horn? Come on, tío, how about a Hallmark card stuffed with veintes instead?
Don’t forget the 18-piece banda and the limousine ride to and from graduation – and all this is for your niece graduating from the eighth grade!
For seniors graduating from high school, the matter is altogether different. Sure, the celebrations may be similar in scope, and your tío is sure to be there – with a slightly larger paunch, a different girlfriend and a more powerful horn – but what lies ahead is no longer a straight path to high school. Unfortunately, the future can be clouded with uncertainty for the graduate.
For many Latinos, going to college is still a bit of a trailblazing endeavor, almost like entering a forest not sure what it is filled with and what lies ahead. At least for now, most Latino students don’t have too many friends and family that are experienced campers, which can make exiting the forest an even less familiar experience.
Not knowing anything about college, I went because a few of my white friends went, and they always had great stories to tell when they came home. I wanted great stories to tell, too, so I started at Glendale Community College a year after high school. That was the first time I actually studied.
A year later, I transferred to ASU thinking I’d be a graphic designer, because all I knew how to do was draw. Somehow, I became an architecture student instead, and, after a couple of intense years, I switched majors and eventually graduated with a marketing degree.
Sure, it took me seven years, but somehow it didn’t always seem that the accomplishment was appreciated the way I imagined it would be by some people close to me. I still remember my primos in California, who worked in construction, saying, “I thought you were going to be an architect, ay.” I’m sure the “congratulations, cuz” was implied, but it still stung a bit to hear that.
College life was great. I had the best times of my life while also having some of the worst times of my life, and I didn’t give up. I didn’t become an architect, but I drew up some pretty decent plans for my future.
So, hug the graduates in your life tight and tell them you’ll always be there for them, even if you don’t exactly know where “there” is.
They’ll love you for it.