Life After Now.
Liz Bolsoni 00:07
Hello, and welcome to the Life After Now podcast. I'm your host, Liz Bolsoni. I'm a communication studies major at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. This podcast is a place for young people like you to gather information about education, and think about what it means for your life after now. You'll be able to connect with inspirational guests who have firsthand experience and expertise surrounding education in Minnesota. Today, I'll be speaking with Betty Garcia Herrera, a recent graduate of Worthington High School, about her journey with the college application process, as well as the work she's doing in her community. Betty, thanks so much for joining me today.
Betty Garcia Herrara 00:47
Yeah, thank you for having me. This is my first time being on a podcast. It's pretty cool.
Liz Bolsoni 00:52
You know, this is my first podcast too, so. So we want to talk about your high school experience and graduating and then applying for college. That's what this episode is about. So you recently graduated high school, and first of all, congratulations, you know, a question we usually ask our guests is if you could reflect on your high school self, and give some positive words of affirmation, or give some advice to yourself, what would you say? But for you, I guess it's just looking back a couple months. So do you have any advice for whoever you were couple of months ago?
Betty Garcia Herrara 01:26
Yes. Something I would tell myself is just to take a break, take a mental health day. You know, there's so many situations where you can see yourself stressing out. And honestly, I wish I told myself to take a breather, tell myself that even though there's so many opportunities out there, not all of them are possible. And they may not be for you. They tell you, they see that all the opportunities that come along, if they're for you, they'll come to you, and you'll have them for sure. But honestly, during my high school experience, I wanted to tell myself take a break. I wanted to be able to get all the experience and be able to say I didn't regret anything. But honestly, I would tell myself that I do regret just not having a day of myself. I was so focused on my studies and everything. I just never had a reflection of being like, "Oh, I had this day to myself, where I got to go to the park, you know, go on a kayak." Anything like that. It was always focused on my studies, trying to gain new experiences. And honestly, I wish I just took a break.
Liz Bolsoni 02:29
Yeah, that goes back to a couple of episodes we've had about rest and taking care of yourself and how important that is. So you are a first generation student, which means like you're the first person in your family to attend college. Can you share a little bit about your journey as a first generation student, and maybe some of the challenges of the application process and how you went about that?
Betty Garcia Herrara 02:52
Yeah, so I'll start off with my journey. So I come from a family of immigrants, both my parents are immigrants. They are meatpacking workers. So they work a lot constantly. And they work in unsafe conditions, as you seen, due to the COVID pandemic. I also have two older brothers. They decided not to pursue college, and I can see why because of the lack of support they had during their college process. So being the youngest in my family, I was able to have the support from my two older brothers. And honestly, that meant a lot to me, because I didn't have to have the main issue of, "Will I be able to support my family, especially my parents?" Because they have the responsibility of, you know, translation, take care of bills, stuff like that. But in my case, since being the youngest, I was able to mainly focus on schools, my studies. I wanted to be able to achieve something for myself. So I was able to not have the stress of being able to provide for my parents, especially like having such a huge workload. So during my time in high school, my freshman year, I was invited to head down to our library, and there was a group of people, which introduced me to the program that's called Upward Bound. And Upward Bound is basically a first generation program that helps students just like me, you know, just reach the goal of going to college. So an Upward Bound, I do love the program, but I just found that there was a lack of representation for the students of color. They didn't get to really understand what a student may be going through just because of like the difference in cultures. So I saw that and it kind of, I kind of lacked in participating efforts just because I felt like it was another organization trying to like push towards their white savior complex, I guess I would say. And I found that not to be true like that. And that really shocked me because I found that these were genuine people that really wanted to help me and made me even comfortable enough to even share my story with them. Because honestly, I had never I told anybody my parents were immigrants just because the lack of safety for my family. And to be able to tell them that and have like a connection to be able to say that. And it was really cool. I really loved that.
Liz Bolsoni 05:15
It sounds like through Upward Bound, you found kind of a safe space. And also, they really propelled you as you applied into college. So talk about like how you decided to go, and what specifically Upward Bound helped you navigate in applying for college?
Betty Garcia Herrara 05:35
So Upward Bound was an amazing organization. They open the question of telling me what I wanted to do in life. And my freshman self did not know anything, like I did not know about careers, salaries, majors, all of that, like, I did not know anything. So it was kind of cool for them to introduce that to me. And I got to gain more, gain like a better idea of what I wanted to do after high school. So Upward Bound actually reached out to St. Benedict, and they set up a college visit with them. And I got to actually miss a day of school, and they brought me up, and I got to tour the school, which was really, really nice of them just because my parents -- I actually tried to like beg my parents to take me up there, just because I wanted them to experience what I was trying to achieve. But unfortunately, that didn't happen. So Upward Bound was nice enough to take me up there. And although it was nice, I do wish my parents were there. So after the tour, they asked me a lot of questions. They asked, like especially Upward Bound, they asked me like, "How do you like the tour? How'd you like the campus? Is this something that you see yourself in the next four years?" And I, at first, I was hesitant, but I loved it. I really loved it. I was happy to be able to go up there.
Liz Bolsoni 06:53
Tell us about touring. So was that a really important part of your decision? Or how does visiting campus really push your decision?
Betty Garcia Herrara 07:01
Yeah, so when I got up there, I was kind of scared because I didn't know what to expect. Like, is there going to be a lack of resources? Are the classrooms going to be good? Is this something that's going to be comfortable for me to navigate through? And honestly, they answered any questions I had, which was really, really nice. And one of the like, the main priorities I had was like, "Where's the bathroom? Or where's the sink?" Yeah, [because] I heard that's like a major thing with every college student. And I found out that our sinks are in our dorm room. Oh, like, right away when I get up. Yeah, right away. When they get up, I could just brush my teeth and head out, which is really, really nice. And they also told me everything was included, like laundry, they said laundry is free, which is really, really nice. I didn't expect that. They told me our meal plan is unlimited. Everything. It just felt like the right school for me, honestly.
Liz Bolsoni 07:54
Yeah, those little things really add up and it saves you some money. And that's really helpful. So you said that Upward Bound really encourages students to think about career paths or things that interest you to study. So what are some areas of study that you're interested in? Or what do you hope for, for your future career?
Betty Garcia Herrara 08:14
So basically, throughout my four years of high school, I always had an interest in sustainability, just because I've heard of all the, you know, climate change, global warmings in our earth, and I really found that I have an interest in that. I want to be able to, you know, minimize the carbon footprint. And I was also passionate in activism.
Liz Bolsoni 08:37
So a big part of your decision to attend St. Ben's, was that you received the International Lead scholarship. Can you tell us about the scholarship?
Betty Garcia Herrara 08:46
Yeah, so St. Benedict's, it's a private school. So, and if you know anything about private schools, they're really expensive. So for St. Ben's to offer this scholarship for me was really, really cool. It's a, it's called International Lead, and is basically [to] prioritize first generation students to get into the fellowship. And in order to gain this fellowship, I was required to write an essay. Basically, what the topic [was}: how do you show inclusion in your community? And this was kind of tough for me at first, just because I didn't know what inclusion meant. I didn't know like what the basic definition of it was. So this is where Upward Bound comes in as well, because they helped me out with my topic. And they helped me out a ton, and gave me a bit more understanding of what it meant, as well as what the topic would be. And I showed them a few examples or history of my activism I had done in my community, and they help me out with writing an essay that will help me get into the fellowship. So this fellowship is for first generations. I have a basically like a, like I would say before our orientation, like a little trip just to get to know the students in this fellowship. And this will be in the late August. So I get a bit of a sense of community of what I'll have in this fellowship, which is really, really nice of them, just because I feel like, being a person of color in a predominantly white school, it'll be kind of scary for me, because I'm not used to this background. Because in Worthington High School, it's, our community, our school is very, very diverse. Like, honestly, I did not have any white friends. I had mainly Hispanic, Asian, all of it. But with Caucasian people, I really didn't have a sense of needing to be friends with them, just because like, we never clicked. And there's nothing wrong with like, not being friends with white people. We're just like, I never clicked with them. I was more predominantly, like connected with people of color, just because, you know, cultural differences and all that. So with is fellowship, they granted me $10,000 per year, which is really a huge number. And they told me that they really liked me. We had an interview, just before I was granted a scholarship to determine if they felt like I was the right fit. And we had a long talk. We had some few laughs and everything, and they, we just really clicked and I felt like St. Ben's was a school for me. So after I was granted this fellowship, I decided to commit to the school and enter in my deposit. And it was kind of scary at first, just because like, this is where I'm going to be for the next four years. But they, they supported me and honestly, I'm I don't have any regret in committing to the school.
Liz Bolsoni 11:41
Yeah, that's awesome. So congratulations on deciding, and also on your scholarship. As you went through high school through the past year, you probably faced a lot of challenges, like many, many students. And to name a few, I mean, distance learning the global pandemic, a nationwide reckoning with racial and social injustice. All of that really happened worldwide, but also specifically in the state. And so considering all of that, what do you hope that life after now can look like for students in Minnesota?
Betty Garcia Herrara 12:17
Yeah, so I really want for students just like my age to speak out. Because honestly, we are the voice for the people. I learned that although there may be some people that have some disagreements with you, you need to be true to yourself and stand for what you think is right. Because honestly, it's going to benefit you. Stand up for what you believe in, have faith in yourself and be true to yourself, honestly, because in the end of the day, all you have is you. What you stand for, what you believe in, and what you want to see change in the world, it's all on, I wouldn't say you, but you need to be able to have that voice be the first one to stand out, be the first one to bring that to the table. Because, honestly, you, there is no one else thinking about what you want to see changed in the community. If you don't bring the ideas to the table is never going to be brought up. It's never going to be executed. And I would want to see more change in the world, especially from teens, because we have so many bright ideas. But just because of the lack of age differences we have with the people of power, it doesn't mean that we should back down. It means that we should bring up ideas, be encouraged, be supported, and be able to preach what we want to see change in the world.
Liz Bolsoni 13:31
Yeah, thank you. And I would say that, you know, young people, like you said, now are grasping a sense of agency that's really benefited our community. And you see activities, community building, so many things that young people in the city are, and around the state, are putting together. And that really reflects on who we are as the students and as members of the state of Minnesota. So thank you for sharing those parting words. And thank you for your, for putting little fire under everyone's seat. And hopefully everyone listening is resonating with what you've said and wants to make change as well. So, again, thanks for sharing your story with us.
Betty Garcia Herrara 14:16
Yeah, thank you guys so much for having me.
Liz Bolsoni 14:19
I also want to give a quick shout out to our listeners. Thank you so much for spending some time with us today. This podcast was brought to you by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. And we encourage you to dig into the resources mentioned in this episode, which you can find in the show notes at our website lifeafternowpodcast.mn.gov. Don't forget to follow this podcast on Apple, Spotify, Google Play or wherever you listen to your podcasts, so that you don't miss any future episodes. Until next time, everyone. I'm Liz Bolsoni. Stay well, stay hopeful, and stay ready because you all are the future.