Jóvenes Adelante Student Finds Belonging at University

Viecente Espinosa

By Kate Greenaway

One of seven children, Vicente Espinosa recalls watching his four older siblings leave school to follow in their parents’ footsteps, as his brothers became farm laborers and his sisters housewives. He watched them struggle to establish their own households; most months, they barely made ends meet. As he observed their lives unfold, he became increasingly determined that his life would be different.

With a shy smile, this young man from the small community of San Agustin del Bordito describes how his commitment to obtaining a university education began: He had always liked school, and his teachers praised him, both for his intelligence and his innate leadership abilities. He recalls, “They said I had potential. Their encouragement really motivated me—I started believing I could build a better life.”

Now, with Jóvenes Adelante support, Espinosa studies psychology at the Universidad Patria in San Miguel de Allende.

Getting this far has not been straightforward. He felt compelled to leave school for several years to help keep his parents’ household afloat. Those years reaffirmed his commitment to education, and when he finally returned to education, he completed secondary school with flying colors.

Now in his second semester of university, Espinosa starts his day at 5:15am with a quick breakfast before riding his motorcycle partway to town. He completes the trip by bus and attends classes from 7;00 to 9:30am, Monday to Friday. Retracing his steps, he touches base at home before his 12–5pm shift at the Conservas Factory. His wages allow him to contribute to the family coffers while covering his own living expenses and school incidentals. After work, he studies until 11:30pm. He says he’s lucky to have his own quiet room to study, but with no Internet, he relies on borrowed Wi-Fi and uses his cell phone to complete his research before he gets home.

And his week doesn’t end there. Vicente works on Saturdays from 8am until noon; then he participates in several volunteer projects, including tree planting and a research project about high student dropout rates in rural communities. He is already known as a leader in his community, having spearheaded the road repairs that keep his community connected to the main highway.

In his community, Vicente finds a sense of optimism emerging. He is one of a small handful of role models showing younger students that it’s possible to engage with the outside world. His parents are proud of him, and he’s optimistic that his younger brother will follow him into university. He shares that he loves the learning, but most of all, he loves being with his classmates.

“For the first time in my life, I feel like I belong. When I’m with my classmates, we share the same interests, and we all want a better future. I’m not the only one with a dream.”

Jóvenes Adelante sponsors top-ranked students from San Miguel who otherwise cannot afford university, helping break the cycle of poverty while building a skilled Mexican workforce. To volunteer with or donate to Jóvenes Adelante, see jovenesadelante.org or call 150 0030.

 

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