“Where do you come from?” This was the one of the first questions that Professor Roberto Gonzales posed to our class during our first week of the semester. Our course, Contemporary Immigration Policy and Educational Practice, looks not only at broad immigration issues but also examines the intersection between immigration and education. Seemingly simple, this question – and the answers that followed – served as a reminder of just how wonderfully different and interesting students at HGSE are.
I expected our answers to follow the typical format of many class introductions: going around in a circle with each person quickly saying where they grew up. But Professor Gonzales asked us for a much more. We had to show where we came from in the form of a poem. Now I know what some of you may be thinking – poetry? in a policy course at Harvard? I was surprised at this unusual request but as poems were read aloud one by one, I realized my peers were not just sharing their geographical origins – they were letting our class see glimpses of their multifaceted identities. We all come from an array of backgrounds, ethnicities, beliefs, and experiences. All this diversity results in a wealth of ideas and point of views about challenging topics such as immigration reform. Sharing our “where are you from” stories has helped to set the stage for the genuine and enriching conversations we have had thus far in class.
I have included the story I shared in class below. Now, I invite YOU to share yours!
I come from two worlds
sometimes they collide and sometimes they come together
I come from buildings,
rows, and rows, and rows, and rows of them
that stretch out as far as the eye can see
I come from the city of bright lights, bodegas, and Broadway
But I also come from mountains
from the majestic beauty of the Andes
and the cobbled, historic streets of Quito
I come from both these places
I belong but not belong all at once
I live, as Anzaldúa writes, in the borderlands
Where I mix my Spanish con mi inglés
Where I cook with sazón and listen to the Beatles
I come from dreams,
Dreams from my father, who came to the U.S. as a young teen
earned A’s in high school only to be told he couldn’t go to college
I come from hope,
Hope from my mother, the youngest and most adventurous of five
Leaving her familiar world behind and looking to explore a new one
But most importantly,
I come from love
Love from a family who showed me the value of hard work
And the power of education
Jessica Acosta is Master’s in Education candidate in the Higher Education Program. Deeply passionate about issues of race, equity, and college access, Jessica aims to gain knowledge and tools to promote a deeper understanding of multicultural issues and to help students of color strive towards academic success in college and beyond.