My name is Ashley Soledad Perez Magaña, I am a junior majoring in Computer Science, Games and minoring in Game Animation. I am from South Gate, California and a child of immigrants from Oaxaca, Mexico and El Salvador. I am a first-generation student.
From an early age I knew that college was a must. I grew up low-income. I don’t say poor because there was always food on the table, even if it was just beans. My parents did not attend school past elementary. They were undocumented. The only thing I knew to get my family out of poverty was attending a good college and getting a high-paying job. My parents never put this pressure on me, I put it on myself because I saw how hard they worked every day. It was also the fear that they would be deported. I was very self-aware as a child. I knew that people with backgrounds like me didn’t get into prestigious schools. I knew that people like me didn’t have half of the opportunities the “other” kids had. I knew I had to work a thousand times harder than anyone else. And so, I did. I forced myself to create and run clubs that I was not passionate about and to take every AP offered at my school. I even took college courses after school. I never let myself earn a grade below an A and sacrificed my happiness and youth in order to provide my family with a better life. I have a lot of regrets about how I spent my teenage years. I suffered from severe mental illness because of the pressure I put on myself. A part of me wishes I had been able to live the life of a normal teenager.
Nevertheless, those sacrifices I made got me here. I am very grateful to be at USC. When I started USC I thought I would finally be on the same playing field as everyone else. I couldn’t have been more wrong. My experience differs greatly from the other students. When I stepped onto campus, I did not see Latino people who were proud of their culture. I did not see low-income students. I felt alone. The other students made me feel small and like I was not good enough, or smart enough. I had a very hard first year. There were many nights when I called my friends, telling them I wanted to transfer out and go to a school like theirs. My friends firmly told me that was not an option. They reminded me that someone has to pave the way for others. I still have to work harder than the other kids. I feel as though I have to fight for the opportunities that come easy to other students. I have to do all of this while working a job or two, babysitting, and meeting all other familiar expectations.
I have been lucky enough to find communities where I feel at homeI have found those people at USC to whom I can relate to. Even now there are days when I still feel small and consider transferring out. My friends and family, including my SHPE familia, is what keeps me going. I have worked so hard to be here and I know that no matter how much I struggle, I cannot give up. This experience is only adding more fuel to my fire. The fire that I will use to ensure that one day USC is a welcoming and accessible place for mi gente back home.