Oh My Gosh!!! Going to UC Berkeley will forever be a part of me!!! I recall UC Santa Cruz was my first choice!!! The ocean the groovy vibe!!! I was so bummed when they “rejected” me – with a sad face I went to Gavilan Community College and everyone began asking me why I was so sad… I was confused because they were congratulating me. It turned out I was rejected by UC Santa Cruz but accepted by UC Berkeley!!!
Part of the story is that I knew nothing about college – I happened across all of this – because I came from a home where we were raised to believe that education was not important and that if it was it was for men! I had to fight the messages – my Mama – bless her heart – would say I should stay home with my kids and raise them on welfare and food stamps like she did. It was not an easy time – single parent with three kids!!! Thankfully my kids Grandmother Julie – bless her heart – helped especially with my middle child.
So there I am completing an application as I finished my third year in community college because everyone else was doing it!!! I checked every box not knowing what the heck it meant. UC Berkeley just happened to be one of them. When I got accepted I was clueless – what it meant – where it was – how it would impact my life!!! I drove two hours every day until I was able to secure housing at the UC Village!!! I got my little id card that was blue and wondered why so many people on the bus had gold!
Some of my scary memories – there was a shooter at the top of one of the buildings so the bus dropped us off at the top of the hill – you could literally see him pacing back and forth with a rifle – the firestorm where the Berkeley Hills caught on fire – one of my friends was devastated because she couldn’t find her furry friend, also some very morbid scenes I will leave out.
Experiencing the political vibe when the Rodney King Verdict came out – I got a taste of the palpable energy as we gathered at Sproul Plaza then took to the streets taking over Shattuck then the freeways…I recall we were stopped by north bound police as we went south and jumping the median which had wire that cut our hands so we could cross to the south bound traffic – greeted by more police. We zigzagged our way to the Oakland Bay Bridge! On the way back before getting arrested – I had kids waiting for me after school so we hitched a ride from a person with a hatchback and I recall being in the back squished like sardines the window pressed against our faces. Blood on our hands from the cuts made every time we crossed the median and our hearts pumping as everyone would take turns sharing how we felt followed by pockets of silence that I will never forget!!!
My passion and goal was to become a math teacher however I got blown out of the water by the high levels of math everyone else had – I got scared and switched majors to Sociology (once again clueless) I recall my friend Michael saying the study of groups that sounds nice!!! I became a Sociology Major!!!
It was not easy as I took theory the first year I was there – I found out students usually take that subject last because it is so difficult. I muddled through it but it was painful because Professor Fisher had assigned a book by Horowitz – a study of the worst of Mexican population. When others – who had a voice and used it to point out how these studies will influence the young affluent freshmen who come straight from high school – they will believe this is how all Mexicans are… Professor Fisher defended himself saying that he included studies of other races and listed the study on African women on welfare. Most of us shook our heads in disbelief and pain I imagine.
My greatest experience was getting to know Lupe Gallegos-Diaz because she was all about empowering nuestra gente – My kids still talk about the giant Statue of Liberty we made for the fourth of July Chicano Studies Float!!! It had rows of corn all planted at different times so you could see the corn landscaped beautifully on the float!!!
I was featured in a news article on the Daily Cal, spoke to a group of 500 in the women and sociology class – who were aghast that I slept in the same bed as my mother and sister and presented at the Re-Entry program!!!
On one of my returns to Hollister, CA to visit my Mama – she was watching the news and with a surprised look on her face she asked if the University they were featuring on the news was the same one I was attending – it was UC Berkeley – my Nana’s reactions was as if she had seen a ghost – she acknowledged for the first time how proud she was of me. It was such a trip!!!
I miss the UC Berkeley vibe – being around so much intelligence, ideas, and opinions even the ones I may not necessarily agree with!!! if I ever decided to do my masters I would try like heck to return to UC Berkeley and I would put my fear aside and study to be a math teacher which was my first love!!!
As I share this I realized My Grace Filled Life After Addiction began a long time ago!!!
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