My son Quetzal and I at the University of California, Berkeley.
Photo by Flickr user Serge Melki/ Creative Commons

It was a cold, blustery afternoon last December when I received some great news. Winter had arrived along with one big envelope in the mailbox. As I pulled it out, I saw it was from the Office of Admissions at San Francisco State University. My heart started beating faster since it’s known that big envelopes from college admissions offices mean good news.

I hesitated for a moment thinking that maybe I shouldn’t open it now, but it was too exciting to stop. I tore it open, imagining the golden ticket I would find inside. My eyes scanned the letter quickly and the words jumped out at me “Congratulations!” and “Welcome freshmen class of 2012.” I jumped up and down and ran back into the house yelping with joy. Right away, I knew I had to make some phone calls and of course, post it on Facebook. The first person I called was my son. “Guess what mijo? You got accepted to college!”

When my son was accepted to college, I also felt like I had been accepted. It was a delicious motherhood moment that I reveled in. This was a validation of my blood, sweat, and tears over the years.

I started out as a young single mother raising two boys on my own. All of the time I invested in my children was now paying off. I recalled attending parent conferences and back to school nights; rushing home from work to shuttle kids to tutoring and sports; reading books in bed together; and all the simple moments of daily life with school-aged children”” I felt like we were beating the odds.

Although my boys grew up seeing their mother in school, working, staying up late nights to study, and were there to cheer me on when I walked across the stages at Berkeley and at UCLA, not all parents have the information I was able to provide.

My son Quetzal and I at the University of California, Berkeley.

Transitioning to college is not an easy task for kids, nor their parents. In our community of Boyle Heights, parents work a lot of hours to make ends meet and many are immigrants or speak limited English. Yet, I have witnessed tough and tenacious parents who are good advocates for their children. They may not understand the college system but they recognize that they have the right to ask questions and to find teachers, counselors, and administrators who will help.

Whether or not a parent is a college graduate, we are the most important role models for our children. We can help our young people take advantage of the opportunities available to them by finding available resources. The key is not to give up.

The best thing we can do as parents is to always be an encouraging voice to our youth with kind words of motivation. Show them that you believe in them by asking them about their hopes, dreams, and goals. Encourage them to look out for opportunities in their schools by asking their peers, teachers, or school staff and by paying attention to flyers, signs, banners, posters, and announcements. If we are not careful, we could walk right by an opportunity and not even see it!

To help parents transition, here’s a brief list of online resources””they are in English and Spanish. Sit down with your children and review these together at your home computer or visit your local library to go online. Stay tuned for future posts where I will give you tips on financial aid, scholarships, college prep programs, and resources for undocumented youth.

1. California Colleges:
2. Know How to Go:
3. The College Board:
4. Resources for Undocumented Youth:
5. Congresswoman Lucille Roybal Allard Student Center:

Luz Montavlo is a Boyle Heights resident and college counselor at California State University, Los Angeles.

Luz Montalvo

Luz Montalvo is a Boyle Heights resident and college counselor at California State University, Los Angeles.

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