“We lived in Caracas, Venezuela until I was five. My dad was a civil engineer in the Army. In the early 60s there was a lot of unrest in Central and South America, so I wasn’t allowed to speak English outside our home. So, I didn’t have a good command of spoken English when we moved to Virginia.
That’s where being a “third culture kid” comes in. These are kids who are the children of families who travel for work internationally. You don’t fit in wherever you go. But you learn how to make friends and start your own quirky cliques.
When I entered school in Virginia, I understood everything that was being said to me. But there was a lot of processing that had to go into in my head before I could respond. I made friends because I could Double-Dutch skip rope and the rhymes we chanted helped me learn more English sayings.
In school, I was in language labs to learn English pronunciation and stress patterns. I still have to concentrate. And I learned southern American pronunciation in Virginia. There is no difference for me in sound between the word ten or tin. I don’t hear it and I don’t say it.
I didn’t get to study Spanish until I went to middle school. That’s when everything changed. When I learned grammar and parts of speech in Spanish everything suddenly made sense to me in English. That’s why I think it’s so important for kids to be literate in their home language.
That’s one of the reasons I became a teacher. I understood when I was being spoken to. I couldn’t get anybody to understand me. It was frustrating and often demoralizing, but I had great teachers and librarians who helped me. I became a schoolteacher because every child has an inner life and I want to help each student express it, honor it and give it dignity.”
Jared Ibarra, counselor, Bellingham High School
“I am so thankful for my parents. They sacrificed everything in their world to help me create mine. They taught me to read and write in Spanish when I was young, and it was one of the greatest gifts they gave me—even though I would have preferred to be playing futbol.
I was prideful, yet wary of my Mexican heritage. I embraced American values, but felt rejected. At home, I responded to Ha-red and at school Ja-red. It felt as if I lived in two different worlds. I found myself struggling with an identity crisis, not knowing where I fit in. But despite the disconnect, one aspect was universal; in both worlds, education was the priority.
This past year, I think ultimately, we learned about the resiliency of people, especially about those who have to navigate complex things. I think it just exemplifies that all of us, universally, went through something this year, a loss. There can be so many things we don’t know about what families go through unless we authentically seek to know their stories.
The biggest thing to overcome for me, both individually and as a family, was the separation of my parents. My dad went back to Mexico in October. It was challenging to the core to know that my family system, being my biggest support system, was suddenly dismantling before my eyes.
I survived this year because of my counseling cohort, my family engagement familia, and my internship supervisor Steve Wiley. They were working alongside me, not only to accommodate my needs as a professional and as a student, but as a human first. They allowed space for grief and processing because, all of a sudden, the outlet that I usually would go to, my family, was the one in crisis and so I couldn’t lean on them. I reflect on the importance of leaning on the people who are there for you in your circle and that’s what got me through.
It also doesn’t feel right to talk about resiliency without also talking about my mom and how much she has taught me throughout the years to stay true to our values of integrity, being humble, and doing something that you love. My mom always reminds me that if you are not doing something that you love, then you are not doing the right thing. Today is Diez de mayo May 10. In Mexico, this is Mother’s Day and I’ve been thinking about my mom non-stop.
My mom taught me everything. I carry her heart, mind, and spirit in the way I live life. She reminds me that the reason she went through it all was because of her children. There is not one day that goes by when she regrets it because she sees us now doing things that we love out in the world.
I love all moms; I love talking with the moms I work with, the family moms at my school, my friends’ moms. They have the biggest responsibilities of all, not only bringing humans into this world but making sure we survive and that we stay true to our values.”