Barriers beyond borders

Story Maya Williamson

Illustration Ashton Carless

America is often referred to as a cultural “melting pot,” where immigrants from across the globe flock to find individual success. We boast of the “American Dream,” the idea that anyone, regardless of their circumstances, can prosper with only their own perseverance and innovation.

As romantic and inspiring as this idea is, very few can succeed in America purely based on their merit. This is especially true for immigrants and their children in the sphere of education. Many immigrate to America to provide a better life for their family and a better education for their children. By doing this, immigrants leave behind a world with which they are familiar, and enter an educational system where their students are allocated little assistance. In order for these students to thrive, schools need to provide support systems specifically targeting their needs. South Pasadena High School is home to many children of such immigrants. Junior Marta Jerebets’ parents emigrated from Ukraine 20 years ago and neither have any experience in the college application process.

“Since my parents came here with nothing, it’s been emphasized that the only way I’ll get into college is by receiving a scholarship,” Marta said. “A lot of pressure is placed on me to get good grades.”

According to the Migration Policy Institute, higher pressure to get good grades and a strong sense of family obligation is a common trend amongst children from immigrant families. American-born students of immigrant parents tend to be more academically motivated, and appreciate the value of postsecondary education more than students whose parents were able to succeed in the American education system themselves.

Still, this motivation isn’t enough to help immigrant students overcome the significant barriers they face, barriers that many others do not even consider. These often result from inadequate information regarding college applications and financial aid, cultural differences, language barriers, and even citizenship issues.

Students know they can seek help from the counseling office for guidance on schoolwork and college applications, but accessing a counselor every time something is unclear is nearly impossible. This support could be aided by a more diverse teaching staff as well as informational events for students and immigrant parents. By providing more programs specifically catered to students from different cultural backgrounds, SPHS can further ensure that all of its students succeed.

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