Achieving My College Dreams
by Chelsea Torres, Rocketship Los Suenos Alumna
Rocketship Los Sueños Academy was named after the dreams of its East San Jose community. Dreams of a better future for their children – for college, for good jobs, and for the opportunity to fall in love with learning.
Rocketship Los Sueños is also where my dreams started. I was 9 years old when my elementary school went on a field trip to the University of California Berkeley and my mom came along as a chaperone. No one in my family – even cousins – had ever been to college, so I didn’t really understand what it was. I’d never considered what came after high school other than working long, hard hours like my parents and aunts and uncles did. I guess I assumed I’d clean houses like my mom or work in a bagel shop like my dad. Instead, this fall, I will be attending UC Berkeley as a student.
Stepping onto the UC Berkeley campus at 9 years old, my dreams were born. From that day on, my mom and I shared a dream of me one day walking that campus as a student – as the first in my family to go to college, as a proud member of my East San Jose community, as a carrier of my farmworker ancestors’ dreams.
I achieved this dream because ten years ago, my parents enrolled me at Rocketship Los Sueños Academy. There I learned about college and how working hard at school could give me opportunities my family had never had. I joined a community of dedicated teachers and students who lifted each other up through hard times and good ones, from elementary school all the way to today, as a high school senior.
I transferred into Rocketship mid-way through third grade. My parents weren’t happy with the education my older brother received in our local elementary school and I was struggling as well. When my aunt told my mom about a new school in our neighborhood, my mom jumped at the chance and enrolled me at Los Sueños. The transition was pretty rough – I wasn’t used to homework, didn’t understand the focus on college, and struggled to get up to speed. But by the end of that third grade year, through the tireless efforts of my teachers, I was on track and getting the hang of things.
At Rocketship, I learned to work hard, love learning, and to never give up on my dreams. And I learned that I had an entire community behind me – ready to help whenever I needed. Attending Downtown College Prep (DCP) for middle and high school, I took what I learned at Rocketship and kept growing. I continued to believe in myself and lean on others to help me succeed.
Fulfilling my dream of becoming a Berkeley student will help me to reach another, new dream: that of becoming a social worker. Going to school on the eastside, I saw peers who were not as prepared as I was – academically or with life skills – to succeed. Through social work, I want to give back to my community by helping academically gifted students overcome barriers such as societal stereotypes, family problems, coming from bad neighborhoods, and others, and find success.
I will enter UC Berkeley alongside two of my Rocketship Los Sueños classmates – Alex Garcia and Ciara Lopez. Together, we are living our dreams and those of a proud, hardworking Latino community from East San Jose. Cesar Chavez’s family home is just a few blocks away from Rocketship Los Sueños, anchoring our community identity as that of workers who strive for a better future. As Alex reminded me the other day, the parents who put their kids at Rocketship Los Sueños are painters, house cleaners, grocery baggers. They’re workers. We come from a community of workers who dreamt of better opportunities for their children and it’s up to us to continue this tradition and make them proud.
We don’t know what it will look like to be ‘on campus’ at Berkeley this fall. We may be meeting our classmates and attending our first classes by video from our bedrooms in San Jose. Or we may be able to be in-person on campus. Either way, I know that I am ready. I am ready to face whatever challenges come my way, to make my community proud, and to live my dreams. Thank you Los Sueños, DCP, my family and my community for giving me the strength to make my dreams come true.
Published on June 23, 2020