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The 2022 Central Valley Scholars Inspire Award

It is our honor to announce Karina Cabello Alvarez (she/her/ella), a student from Cutler, CA, as the recipient of our 2022 Inspire Award. This year, the award comes with a cash prize of $4,000 and continuous themtorship and support from the Central Valley Scholars team.

The Central Valley Scholars Inspire Award, created in light of Pedro Gamino's story, recognizes extraordinary students who find the will to continue their education despite various hardships they face.

As a recent immigrant and non-English speaking student, Karina faced numerous obstacles on her journey to higher education - from having to navigate educational systems that were designed to exclude her, to the belittlement and lack of support she experienced from the Central Valley community.

And while these experiences have added to Karina's personal growth and knowledge, Karina should not have had to face these struggles in the first place. She, and all students, deserve safe and accessible spaces in education in which they are loved and given all the tools they need to thrive.

Karina's story is not new, it is one of many that immigrant students in the Central Valley face. We share Karina's story to invite a larger conversation about how white supremacy culture is not only embedded in our educational systems, but also internalized within our own Latin(o/x/e) community.

White supremacy has taught us that more we attach ourselves to whiteness (e.g. only speaking English), and the more we move away from our heritage, the better our ability to navigate educational spaces in America. We ask educational leaders and the Central Valley community at large to engage in reflection and accountability, and use Karina's knowledge to commit to doing better.

Please join us in celebrating Karina by watching her interview and reading her story below.

Karina's Story (In English)

Karina Cabello is the kind of girl who strives every day to give her best. She is a recent graduate of a Central Valley high school and the recipient of this year’s Inspire Award. Karina shares,“I am very happy and grateful for being given this opportunity; I have no words to express my gratitude.”

She has gone through a lot to get to where she is today: it was not long ago that she was living in her country of origin, but, due to unfortunate circumstances, needed to emigrate out.

Karina's 2022 high school graduation cap and gown.

She arrived in the United States, a strange and new country, completely foreign to her--with a totally different language, and a new system that required her to adapt. “It was so stressful not being able to understand my classes, not being able to do my assignments, or participate in the class with my classmates and teachers. I would get angry with myself for things that were out of my control.”

Previously, when Karina lived and studied in Mexico, although things weren’t easy, they were manageable. “I had to travel an hour by motorcycle to get to my high school. I had to wake up every day at five o’clock in the morning to get ready. I remember how on rainy days I would arrive at school soaked and muddy. I also remember how slippery the road was and how easy it was to fall off the motorcycle. But as hard as it was to get to school, I loved school. I really liked chemistry, entering the laboratory, and seeing in vitro cultures--everything was so exciting to me. I was one of those students that loved to ask questions…. But when I arrived in the Central Valley, everything changed. Because I did not understand the language, my curiosity was restrained, and my questions went unanswered. I constantly had to look things up on my own or re-study everything I had seen in class in order to understand it; but that girl who loved to ask questions and enrich herself with knowledge, little by little, became more timid and quiet. It was a tough year.”

Certainly, one of the toughest parts was the way both teachers and peers failed to help Karina navigate through this dramatic change in her life. “Society suddenly saw me with pity, they treated me differently; I felt their looks, they were discriminating me simply because of my language; they were judging me, without even knowing me; they were rude, and they were cruel.”

“When I first arrived at school, everyone treated me as though I was dumb for not knowing the language. It was very frustrating for me not to be able to do things as simple as answer a question or join in dialogue.”

Likewise, “I was excluded from educational spaces--and education--because of my language. In most classes, teachers seemed troubled to have me in their class because they didn’t know how to communicate with me. Most of them didn't bother to help me. I had problems with one teacher in particular who always made me feel out of place. They did not pay much attention to me even though I needed it. For example, they played a lot of videos that we then had to answer a series of questions on. All of those videos were in English and did not have subtitles, and whatever they explained was also in English. I did not receive any resources that could help me. I felt stressed, anxious and impotent. Sometimes I felt so frustrated and helpless that my hands would get cold and start to shake; and when everything seemed too much to handle, I would cry.”

When asked what helped her persevere through this turbulent time, Karina said: “My parents made a huge sacrifice so that I would have better opportunities and get ahead, I cannot disappoint them; they are my drive to be someone better in life. I also understand that it is not my fault, that I did not choose for any of this, and that I cannot change things from one day to the next. But I accept it and try to do my best. I also no longer care about the teasing, the looks, and the criticism. If anything, they only serve to fuel my engine, to show them that I can and that I will.”

Karina and her father.

Karina is definitely striving for that. Currently, she is working hard to master the English language so she can continue her studies. She is doing this by taking adult English classes outside of the school system, which offer the added benefit of saving money for college courses down the line. Karina is currently a student at Reedley City College and has aspirations of becoming a pilot. "The future is a little uncertain at the moment, but if you put up a fight, you can go very far. I'm not saying it's easy, but let's remember that nothing in this life is easy. There have been many times when I feel like I can't anymore or that I want to give up, but that’s when I know I'm doing things right, because the more difficult it gets, the easier it is to know you're on the right track.”

With that, Karina thanks Central Valley Scholars for supporting her and her dreams--as well as their overall contribution so that others may have a fighting chance at a better future. Someday Karina hopes to do the same for someone else and pay it forward, so that they may have a better life as well. “Thank you, Central Valley Scholars.”

La Historia de Karina (En Español)

Karina Cabello es una chica que se esfuerza día a día por dar lo mejor de ella. Actualmente se graduó de una preparatoria en Valle Central y fue elegida para ser nuestra beneficiaria del Inspire Award. Nos dice Karina, “Estoy muy feliz y agradecida por darme esta oportunidad, no tengo palabras para expresar mi gratitud.”

Ella ha pasado por mucho para poder llegar hasta donde está, no hace mucho tiempo que se encontraba en su país de origen, pero, por cosas del destino, vio la necesidad de emigrar hacia los Estados Unidos.

Fue un país nuevo, extraño y ajeno para ella, con una lengua totalmente diferente, y un sistema que le pedía adaptación. “Era tan estresante no poder comprender las clases, no poder hacer los trabajos, o participar en la clase con mis compañeros y maestros. Tuve que darle el doble o triple de tiempo hacia cada una de mis tareas; a veces me sentía frustrada e impotente; me enojaba conmigo misma por cosas que no podía controlar.”

Anteriormente, cuando Karina estudiaba en México, aunque la cosas no eran fáciles, por lo menos eran manejables. “Tenía que viajar una hora en motocicleta para llegar a la preparatoria. Entre semana me despertaba todos los días a las cinco de la mañana para arreglarme. Recuerdo como en tiempo de lluvia llegaba a la escuela empapada o enlodada por la carretera y los charcos. También recuerdo lo resbaloso que era la carretera y lo fácil que te podías caer en la moto. Pero a pesar de lo difícil que era ir, me encantaba la escuela. Me gustaba mucho la química, entrar al laboratorio y ver los cultivos in vitro. Me emocionaba con las clases. Yo era de las que le encantaba preguntar si tenía curiosidad. Pero cuando llegué al Valle Central, todo cambió, puesto que mis dudas, preguntas y curiosidades no se resolvían por que no comprendía el idioma; constantemente tenía que buscarlo por mi cuenta o estudiar nuevamente todo lo que veía en la clase para poder comprenderlo. Esa niña que le encantaba preguntar, llenarse de conocimiento, poco a poco se volvió más tímida y callada. Fue un año duro.”

Definitivamente, una de las partes más difíciles fue la forma en que tanto los maestros como los compañeros no ayudaron a Karina a navegar este cambio dramático en su vida. “La sociedad me veía con lástima, sentía sus miradas mientras me discriminaban por mi lenguaje, me trataban diferente cuando ni siquiera me conocían. Me trataron como un bicho raro e incluso fueron groseros conmigo; me juzgaron muy cruel y se burlaron de mí.”

“Al entrar a la escuela me trataron como tonta por no saber el idioma. Fue muy frustrante para mi el no poder hacer cosas tan comunes como contestar una pregunta o participar en el diálogo.”

Similarmente, “fui excluida de los espacios educativos por mi idioma. No logre comprender muchas cosas de lo que los maestros dijeron y ellos no se tomaron la molestia de ayudarme. Tuve problemas con un maestro en específico con el cual siempre me sentía fuera de lugar. No me prestaba mucha atención aunque la necesitaba. Normalmente ponía videos en el que contestamos una serie de preguntas, pero los videos nunca tenían subtítulos en español y no los entendí. Fue muy complicado y frustrante hacer sus trabajos porque todo lo explicaba en inglés y no tuve los recursos adecuados para ayudarme. Pase por una etapa de frustración, impotencia y estrés. A veces me frustraba a tal punto que se me ponían las manos frías y temblorosas, y cuando no podía más, lloraba.”

Al preguntarle qué fue lo que la ayudó a no rendirse, Karina contestó: “Mis padres hicieron un gran sacrificio para que yo tuviera mejores oportunidades, que pudiera salir adelante, no los puedo decepcionar, ellos son mi motor para ser alguien mejor en la vida. También comprendo que no es mi culpa, que no escogí vivir esto, y que no puedo cambiar las cosas de un día para otro. Pero lo acepto e intento siempre dar lo mejor de mi. Y ya no me importan las burlas, las miradas, y las críticas; ya no. Ahora solo son un motor más para salir adelante y demostrar que sí puedo y podré.”

Ella está en lucha para salir adelante. Por ejemplo, quiere comenzar a aprender inglés para poder continuar con sus estudios y tener mejores oportunidades en el futuro. Esto lo hará tomando clases de inglés para adultos fuera del sistema escolar, acción que le ayudará a ahorrar dinero para más cursos universitarios en el futuro. Karina actualmente es estudiante en Reedley City College y tiene aspiraciones de convertirse en piloto. “El futuro es incierto pero si se lucha por sobresalir se puede llegar muy lejos, no digo que sea fácil, pero recordemos que nada en esta vida es fácil, ha habido muchas veces en las cuales siento que ya no puedo o me quiero rendir, en ese momento se que estoy haciendo las cosas bien porque entre más difícil sea significa que vas por buen camino.”

En esa nota, Karina agradece a Central Valley Scholars por apoyar a que sus sueños se hagan realidad; gracias a su contribución, ahora existen muchas personas que tienen la oportunidad de seguir luchando por un futuro mejor, para superarse, y avanzar. Algún día Karina también quisiera poder ayudar a que otra persona tenga la posibilidad de ser alguien mejor en la vida. “Muchas gracias Central Valley Scholars.”

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