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Posts under tag: Ontario

June 4, 2016

RL Spanish Heritage student Gildardo Corona’s journey from fields to graduation

Corona 1“The SHL Program helped me start my career at UO because it gave me a platform to not only learn more about my Mexican heritage and history that I hadn’t learned before, but also helped me discover who I was as a person.”


We in RL are proud of Gildardo Corona who received the Spanish Heritage Language Outstanding Achievement Award. We recognized Gildardo for his dedication to his education and his leadership, particularly in SHL and MEChA. Gildardo is graduating this fall with a major in Spanish and a minor in Music. He sent us the graduation photos that he took in the fields he worked in as a child and the story behind them. Here is his story:

I grew up in Ontario, Oregon, where I was born to recent immigrants from Michoacán, México. My journey to the University of Oregon was not easy. At the age of eleven I started to work in the fields with my dad during the summers after school was out. Working in the fields, I experienced how tough it was waking up early to go to work, working long hours under the sun, and having to endure back breaking jobs that no one should have to go through at minimum wage.

Thankfully, at the age of 15, I discovered my true talent of being a musician when I started to learn how to play the piano. I bought myself a small Yamaha keyboard and wasted no time in learning how to play Mexican music. But I went through some problems in my high school such as gangs and little support for Latino students; I was placed in ESL courses too long, which didn’t allow me to take college prep English. Nobody told us about scholarships or how to prepare for college. College was not expected of us.

Either way, I still graduated with my class in 2008, I did not pursue college right away. Instead I opted to work full time in the fields. I never thought about attending college because I believed that I was not smart enough and that I did not belong in that environment. Working full time in the fields was really brutal for me. I had attained sunburns working under the hot sun, frostbite on my face during harvest season, and I also got chemical spills on my back while doing pesticide jobs. It was also during this time that I started playing keyboard with a local Mexican band called Corazones Salvajes during the weekends for weddings, quinceañeras, and other events [click here to see Corazones Salvajes performing at a wedding in 2012]. I grew as a musician, getting better at playing the keyboard and learning the accordion. I would save up money that I made in the fields to buy my professional Korg keyboards and other music equipment that I still own.

Sick of fieldwork, maybe feeling empowered by music, in spring of 2009 I enrolled at Treasure Valley Community College where I started my basic general requirements. But I had no idea at what I wanted to major in or what I wanted to do career wise. In 2011, I dropped out of college and started working at Heinz factory full time. A lot of my former classmates in high school ended up working there. I spent that year turning my life around after having problems with alcohol abuse and other bad aspects of my life. I made a final decision to once again enroll at TVCC in the beginning of 2012. My sister graduated from TVCC around that time, and the next day I decided that I was going to attend the University of Oregon

For the next couple of years, I attended school full time and worked at Heinz full time as a quality assurance grader and got my homework done on breaks or sneaked my schoolwork inside the factory line. In June of 2013, I graduated TVCC and sent my application to the University of Oregon. I got accepted in person when I first visited the UO campus in October of 2013. I finally left Heinz after three years that December and started attending UO during the winter of 2014, I enrolled in the Spanish Heritage Program that first term. The SHL Program helped me start my career at UO because it gave me a platform to not only learn more about my Mexican heritage and history that I hadn’t learned before, but also helped me discover who I was as a person. In my SHL classes I got involved tutoring students through the HEP Program, became involved in MEChA, learned about getting help through CMAE, and got to take classes with the most wonderful instructors.

I also got to experience wonderful moments at UO, such as attending the 2015 USHLI National Conference in Chicago, attend two national MEChA conferences, and other wonderful moments that I never got to growing up as a migrant child. Although I am going to graduate this year and pursue my Masters in education and music, I will never forget the wonderful moments I had at UO and the journey I went through to get to where I am today.

For my senior photos, I went back to Ontario to the very same fields I worked in while I grew up, where my parents still work, and posed there in my graduation gown. It is important to always remember where you come from. And we cannot forget those who helped us along the way. To me, that means especially my parents, who left Mexico to provide a better life for my siblings and me.

I know my journey in life is only beginning, and for my fellow Latino students who are luchando para salir adelante, por la escuela o por la vida les digo esto: sigan luchando por sus sueños, no se rajen para nada. No estamos en esta lucha solos, sino, también con nuestras familias y todos los que nos han apoyado en nuestro movimiento de salir adelante. Que siga la lucha, que viva la raza, y que viva los latinos unidos, y que viva México….Go get em. –Gil

Corona 2