Unformatted text preview: High School Choices Molded a Lifetime Commentary | VOICES / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY ISSUES July 03, 2004| Dolores Ramos In going through my memento box I discovered a tiny golden lamp pin with the letters CSF ‐‐ my California Scholarship Federation pin. As I held it in my hand, my mind went back to those years at Lincoln High School in Los Angeles, from which I graduated in 1942. Previously I attended Hollenbeck Junior High School, where I received excellent grades and won an essay contest on Americanism in my senior year. In spite of my high grades at Hollenbeck I was not placed on the college‐prep track at Lincoln High, so I chose the business/office option, majoring in bookkeeping. Just before my senior year at Lincoln, someone convinced me that because I was Mexican American, I would not be able to get an office job. Discouraged, I decided to change my major to cosmetology. My parents did not object, and the counselor signed the transfer without comment. The only one to object strenuously was my journalism and bookkeeping teacher. He knew my work because I was on the staff of the school paper. Despite his objections, I took cosmetology, which I hated, during the last semester. Nevertheless, my grades were high enough to qualify for the CSF. After graduation I finished the course at Frank Wiggins Trade School, did beauty work for about a year, then changed to office work. My experience at Lincoln High was probably the most important turning point in my life. I believe that my mind was fertile for all kinds of learning and that had I been allowed to take college prep at Lincoln I would somehow have earned a scholarship and gone on to higher education. I might have been a teacher, a writer or even an intellectual. As it turned out, I tried different vocations and was not happy or successful in any of them. After high school I had a nagging ambition to earn a BA degree, and I became a perennial student. About 10 years ago I had accumulated enough credits to get my degree in about three years, but I needed algebra. I would have had to squeeze it in between my other required subjects, which would have extended my time by about two years. That fact, plus my age, 80, diminishing mental acuity and personal problems made my goal unachievable. So I gave up. I have settled for reading as much as possible, joining book discussion groups and trying to write short stories. I know that my high school experience, to a large extent, determined my future. If I had been placed in a college track, my chances for going to college then or later would have been better. But I cannot put all the blame on the school system. My parents, instead of encouraging me, advised me "not to make waves" or "venture too far." Also, the choices I've made plus the vicissitudes of life have to be considered. But I do know that my life would have been quite different if I had received a break in high school. Although more Latino students are able to attend college than before, I read that some bright Latino students are being placed in shop courses against their will. That means many of them are doomed to work at jobs beneath their intellectual potential. This is sad and tragic not only for them but also for society. My CSF pin is so tiny, but it's a symbol of how the "lamp of learning" can make such a huge difference in a life. Dolores Ramos lives in Claremont. ...
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- high school experience, Junior High School, high school choices, Lincoln high school