Why Not Us? Full Length Documentary


So I didn’t know about
college until my junior year, I didn’t even know that
thing actually existed. My dad worked in a factory,
he cleaned offices at night. And uh my mother as a
janitor. And they would tell me “See, you don’t
want to be doing this. “It’s not bad work, but
you have the opportunity “to do something else. Something different.” My mom, uh, I don’t
think she thought I was gonna leave at
first. Until she saw me packing. And then, I remember the
first day I started packing, “Oh what are you doing?” “Um… packing.” “Packing for what?” “For UCF, I’m going to
college, remember?” So, to her it became real,
to me it became real, to my sisters it became real and my little sister
cried when I left. (Jasmine)
Say hey to the camera Hi! (Jasmine)
Hey grandma, how’re you doing? In high school, it was
like, I did have fun. I hung out and I
went to parties and I did all this but then
when I got to college it was like, I was
so serious and so‚ “I cannot mess this up.” I go to work, I go to school
I do organization stuff and then I’m back home again. I just can’t afford
fun right now so I just do what I have to do, pay the bills, get it
done, and so… yeah. Being first gen, I feel
like I’m wasting time and I’m wasting money because I
haven’t declared a major yet. I feel like, right now, I’m
not going to be able to combine my interests to
find a job that I love. So when I found the opportunity
to travel across the country with three complete
strangers who were also first in their families
to go to college, and along the way
talk with people who created their own lives, I knew it was something
I wanted to do. [Airport PA arrival
announcement] (Felipe)
Jenny and Jonathan are
arriving right now. I’m nervous, anxious,
excited. I know they’re
across the country so they’re in states that
I’ve never been in. Uh… really, really nice people from what appears to
me on the phone. (Felipe)
Good to see you, man. (Jonathan)
Ah, good to see you. (Jonathan)
Hey Jenny! (Felipe)
I think that’s her. Is that her? It is her, it has to be her. Welcome to California, our first
stop. (Jonathan)
Woo! Fist Gen Roadtrip! (Felipe)
Being first means being
first for everything. Being the first to
figure out how you can leverage all of
this education, Being first to discover what
is a master’s program, being the first to travel. I don’t think our story
is really unique. But like what’s so
different about us, like, that we’re able to be
on this road trip and a lot of people are not able
to be here. (Jenny)
Right, like why us? (Felipe)
Why us? (Felipe)
I don’t know what’s up ahead but it feels like
there’s something that it’s all leading up to. (Jenny)
We are hiking five
miles up a mountain so we can bungee jump off
the bridge to nowhere. (Felipe)
We’re going to be up at
about a hundred feet. (Guide)
How do you feel, you feeling
al title bit nervous? (Jasmine)
Yeah. (Jasmine’s mother)
Jasmine is like my centerpiece. I cannot imagine life
without her. (Jasmine)
When I go home and I
visit, and there’s, there’s food in
there but it’s not‚ like I’m eating in Colombia. In those moments, I’m very doubtful that I’m
doing the right thing. I wonder, do they have water? Do they have heat? I’m always thinking like, I could pay this bill so they
don’t have to worry about it, I can do this for them. Oh, I have enough this
time I can send some home. I just can’t let them suffer
and not do anything. I can’t just stand by. (guide)
Trust me, okay? I wouldn’t let you do
this if it wasn’t safe. So just look at me in the
eyes now, okay? It’s a big jump of faith– (Jasmine)
I can’t. (Guide)
You can. (Jasmine’s mother)
She’s never put herself
above anybody else, so it’s like, don’t you worry
about me I’m gonna be alright. You just worry about you,
you be alright. And I want her to take
that back from the trip. (Guides)
5,4,3,2,1. [Felipe screaming] (Guide)
5,4,3,2,1 bungee! [Jenny screaming] (Guides)
3,2,1. [Jonathan screaming] (Guide)
Big papa jump, in 5,4,3,2,1. [Jasmine screaming] (Jasmine)
This was freaking
amazing, and I did it. (Jonathan)
My name is Jonathan and I currently attend the
University of Central Florida. I was going to major
in bio-med and it was because since I was
like in fifth grade everyone knew I was going
to become a doctor because that’s what I
said I wanted to do so everyone backed
that decision. “Oh, he’s going to be a doctor, he’s going to be a doctor,
he’s going to be a doctor‚” Then, uh, this semester
I took some time and thought about I don’t
wanna do it anymore. I’m kind of interested
in something else, and I changed my
major to marketing. And I went home and told
everyone about that, and they’re like,
“What? You did what? “You changed to marketing
from bio-med, “why would you do that? I thought you were going to
be a doctor.” Um‚ I was doing it because I was trying to
make them happy, because this is what I
thought they expected of me. But, I don’t know, I still feel like I’m
letting people down and that I should maybe go
back to, you know, bio-med and in return it would
be my service to everybody that has like backed me. I’m hoping that the
people that we interview kind of give us some insight as to how to follow
what we want to do. (Jenny)
Oh you’re a little close. (Felipe)
We’re about to interview
Mr. William Allen Young. He’s an actor, humanitarian,
director and founder of a nonprofit,
“The Young Center.” In high school, he’s the one who
gave me a sense of direction, a sense of purpose. Um, and he’s really, really,
really, really great. (Felipe)
Good to see you. (William)
Yeah, man, good to be seen. (William)
I come from a large family, and we grew up right in
the heart of Watts, right here in Los Angeles. My mother had to drop out
of school at an early age, and there were seven of us. Uh, and she’d work all day long
and then she’d come home. And in our home my mother was such a
stickler for a clean house. So we would have to
get down on our knees and we had hardwood floors, and we would line up behind her and we would do the
wax-on wax-off approach. And we would do the,
‘Get a good education, ‘before you get old cause a good
education is better than gold. ‘Gold and silver will wash away but that good education
will never decay.’ I think that reality hit
us a lot earlier. Um, when I was a
kid, I was young but the Watts riots happened. And I remember just watching
our neighborhood on fire. And it’s almost like, not your
whole childhood is gone, but a big piece of it. And once the innocence
is gone it’s like, welcome to the real world,
you know what I mean? But on those days, I still
was expected to get A’s. Going on to college and
getting college degrees and advanced degrees, I never stopped and thought about my
circumstance being any excuse for why I wasn’t supposed
to do those things. And so when I run into
young people like you, and I know you and I born with
silver spoons in your mouths and yet, here you are and
here we are in this journey, all of us deciding,
not on my watch. The line is long with
people of all ages who continue to do that. And you think from
your vantage point, from our vantage point,
how is that possible? That’s when you realize
you are uncommon. And that is really something you are going to have
to grapple with. Own it, own it. (Jasmine)
As we’re going on our trip and as we’re still
finding out our journeys and figuring out our ways, what is one piece of
advice that you think that we could keep with us? When you were growing up,
when I was growing up, there was a world
that you belong to that you had very
little control over. You lived in a house, you didn’t select your
brothers and sisters, you didn’t even select
your parents. You didn’t select what
school you were going to, you didn’t even
select in most cases what you were gonna wear. You have to now construct
your world. It must now look like, not what your father’s
world looked like. As you create your world, realize you can create
whatever world you want. Which is why you have no
excuse later on in life. Your mommy and daddy are
not doing this anymore, this is you. Create your world and then
live in it. Really take full advantage
of it. This road trip is an advantage
you guys are taking, benefit from it, don’t
just live in it. (William)
Create your world, and
embrace the goodness in it. For that is the place
that will prepare you for the rest of your life. ♪ (Jasmine)
When we left I was like, ‘Yes, we’re leaving the city
we’re leaving the city.’ And when we got to the
desert it was like that moment of
realization that, we’re really doing this. It’s real, it’s here, and
it starts like right now, you’re going. ♪ (Jasmine)
This is awesome. (Jenny)
No matter where you look there’s canyon around you and
you can see, like, the layers. I’m just thinking about
how big everything is in comparison to me and my life. It’s a good way to keep
perspective. Just remembering that my
problem is like this big compared to the
rest of the world. And just taking it one
step at a time. (Jenny)
My name is Jenny Rogers and I go to Mississippi
State University. I’m undecided right now but
I really like math and art. I know I want to minor in
art no matter what I do, what I major in. I’ve definitely gone
through a lot more than most kids at my age range. I was born in Georgia and my parents owned a small
like appliance business. I couldn’t say I know
what happened with that because we moved
to Mississippi. And so, my mom passed. I was 9. The financial weight got on my
dad’s shoulders more and more. I remember he would just drink
like almost all the time, like, he would even
get me and my brother in the car with
him and drive and eventually it got to the point
where my dad got pulled over three times from drunk driving. He left one morning
to go to court and then my uncle came over
that afternoon and said, “Alright, uh, I guess you
gotta pack your stuff.” (Jenny’s aunt)
Jennifer, she has a drive, and she wants a better
life for herself. I try really hard to like keep
my head up but it gets hard. (leader)
I went to school here at
Flagstaff High School and then I went to NAU and I
got my Bachelors in forestry and eventually my masters and now I’m the
first Navajo woman to get her colorado river
license, guide license, and that’s a huge deal
in the Grand Canyon. (Jenny)
Would you mind talking
about, um, your transition from living on the
reservation to high school and then the transition from
high school to college? (Nikki)
Well, I can talk
easily about it now but it was really hard for me
when I entered high school because I got made fun
of the way I looked, the way I talked, and that
was very, very hard. My grades plummeted. And eventually, yeah,
I found some friends but I never really recovered
from being bullied, should I say. In college, that was
another huge shock because I never did hard
drugs or anything but I definitely did drink. And, um, I’m not hiding it but I’ll confess that I’m
a recovering alcoholic. Being in college and keeping up
I thought that’s what you did. And being a river guide, where a culture that likes
to drink unfortunately. Because it seems like a party
down there to some people and when in fact it’s not. I was also in an accident that lead me to
drink even more, and that was the moment
that my husband and I said, “Let’s stop drinking.” (Felipe)
Where did you get
the motivation to keep pushing and
to keep going, even facing those challenges
and facing criticisms? (Nikki)
I think it was
deep down inside, I knew there was something
out there for me that I needed to
take advantage of. You need to just
push yourself and you listen to people
who tell you, “You are great, you will
be someone someday, “you’re going to make
a great leader, you will make a difference
in someone’s life.” Listen to those people. They don’t, we don’t
say that just because we want to hear ourselves talk. (Jonathan)
You mentioned
earlier about being the first Navajo woman to get your colorado
river guide license? Mhhm. What does that mean for you,
uh, as an individual and I guess for you and
your people as a whole? (Nikki)
It’s a huge deal to be
in this community. There’s still a lot of
racism, uh, stereotypes, and also I think my
role as a Navajo first generation college student
is to tell people like you guys that anything is possible. Take advantage of every
opportunity that can, that, may be presented to you or you
may see it from afar and say, “I’m gonna go get that,
I’m gonna do it.” It’s like a rapid. If you’ve ever been on
white water in a rapid, in the Grand Canyon, there are several of them
like crystal rapid, I am deathly afraid of. I’ve broken my ore, it’s flipped my boat
several times, but I’ve made it out okay. That is my analogy for life. Just, just go do it. (Jasmine)
The most powerful moment
was when I looked over and she was like hugging
Jenny so tight. (Jenny)
I don’t think I’ve ever
felt more vulnerable. I don’t have to reflect on my
past so, it’s hard to face. It’s not all up, there
are definitely downs, a lot of downs. We look at them and we
see everything that they’ve gone through, and they’re here and
they’ve made it, right? (Jasmine)
I think for us, we
always feel like we have to be the strong ones
and we have to keep going so we can’t think about
what’s happening. Right now, I think it’s our
time to look at our lives and reflect on
what had happened and be able to cry
if we want to cry. This is our time to just
be human. (Jenny)
Did you see that lightning? (Felipe and Jenny)
Woah! (Jasmine)
It’s time to go. Powerful. If lightening would hit you
now, would you be ready to go? Oh, Jesus. (Jenny)
Was that one right above us? (Jenny)
Time to go. (Jenny)
Go, go, go, go! (Felipe)
Let’s get out of here! (Jasmine)
We have grown into a family. (Jenny)
Yay! Felipe won! I just feel like I
bonded and made friends that I would never lose. (Jonathan)
These guys I’ve gotten
to know quicker than friends I’ve
had for 14 years. (Jenny)
We’re all basically in
one traveling room. (Jasmine)
We’re all sleeping in
like little beds, and we’re like all next to
each other all the time. At the end of the day
we may disagree, but we always
support each other. (Felipe)
Let’s do it. (Jenny)
Felipe. (Felipe)
Tell us what to do. (Jonathan)
Are we ready? Are we ready? [all yelling] (Jasmine)
It’s on my foot and my hand. (Jenny)
We have a leak. (Jonathan)
Oh, that stinks. (Jasmine)
I can’t take this. (Felipe)
This wasn’t part of the deal (Jenny)
Freakin’ gross. Oh my God. (Jasmine)
Where’s the thing? Where’s the hose thing? (Jonathan)
I did it last time. (Felipe)
I did it last time. (Jasmine)
I’ll do it, I already got
it on my hands and feet, I’ll do it. (Jenny)
Oh God. (Jasmine)
If you get sick on me… (Jonathan)
This is going to scar me
for the rest of my life. (Felipe)
We gotta, we gotta
burn these now. (Jonathan)
Alright Felipe, are we good? (Jasmine)
They were only a dollar,
I can’t burn them. (Jonathan and Jenny)
Turn it off turn it off! (Jenny)
Is this still on? (Jonathan)
Felipe, turn it off
what are you doing? (Jasmine)
We really tried
to turn it off and then Felipe just like
smashed the sign, like, (Felipe)
I thought we were friends. (Jenny)
I don’t want to talk about it. (Jasmine)
I’m in Texas, never
thought I’d be in Texas. (Felipe)
We’re in the middle of the
country, basically in the South. (Jenny)
It’s all been
happening so fast. We’re like halfway
through our trip already. (Jenny)
We have four
interviews in Texas that we’re nervous but
also excited for. Hi! (Leader)
Hey! How’s it going? (Roadtrippers)
Good, What’s up? I’m in Austin, Texas now but I’m the first person out of four living generations to
have left Mississippi. (Leader)
There was a deep
calling inside of me. I couldn’t necessarily
put my finger on it and exactly what it was, but I just knew I was called to
help people. Why do you think that you
didn’t just fall into line and stay in Mississippi
for a fifth generation or why do you think
that you’re different? I’ve asked myself
that a lot. Um, think about plants, right? Like, tomatoes can’t grow in
every climate, you know? Cactus can’t grow
in every climate. I think people are
the same way. Certain people are going to
thrive in certain environments and other people are
not going to thrive in those same environments. (Leader)
I didn’t know that
this was my dream and I just sort of very
serenipitously fell into it. but even though I didn’t
know this was my dream, it feels like a dream because
I wake up every morning happy to go to work. (Felipe)
All the leaders their
purpose is authentic. The work that they do is
for a reason. They just listen to
their voice within them which is a voice that
we’re all trying to find on the roadtrip. (Travis)
I don’t want to be 70,
I don’t want to be 80 and all I could talk about
is what I should’a did. I want to be able to sit around and talk about what we
did and what was good. Just do it, just go with it. (Leader)
How’s everybody doing? (Jasmine)
Good, how are you? Well, Jenny, is that right? Jenny, yes. Felipe. Felipe? Yes, nice to meet you.
Mucho Gusto. Crystal?
Jasmine. Jonathan. Jonathan, good to meet
you. So tell me, where are you in
school right now? Um, I go to, I’m
a junior at UCF, University of Central Florida. That’s right, UCF. And I’m a junior at the
University of South Carolina Columbia campus,
major in education. South Carolina. You talk faster than I listen. Excuse me, my bad, I’m sorry. Where are you, Felipe? I’m an alumni from the University of
California, Irvine. Okay, UC Irvine. That’s right. I think I saw a picture of you, you had like a Mississippi
state shirt on didn’t you? Yeah. I’m entering my sophomore
year at Mississippi State, I’m undecided but I think I
want to do something with math and a minor in art. (Randall)
Yeah? Math and a minor in art? Yeah. Yeah, okay. Well good, good. It’s good meeting you guys. Thank you. Did you know that you wanted
to basically be a CEO of a company that, when
you were our age, did you kind of have like
a path of where you knew where you
wanted to end up? Yeah, I had a very
explicit path and it worked out exactly
like I thought it would. No, no. I had absolutely no expectations
that I would be a CEO of a big company like AT&T. In fact, if you’d
asked me to guess when I was sitting
in your chairs, I would’ve probably told you I would be running
my own company. My father was a
serial entrepreneur and in fact he used
to try to get me not to go to college. So that I could work with
him, right? And so I would’ve assumed that I was probably going
to do the same thing. So how did you begin your
work with AT&T? I got my job the old
fashioned way. My brother got me on. Know some people who know
some people. My wife and I decided
to get married while I was going to
college and she said, “Well, you need to be bringing
money in to, not just me.” And so I said, “Alright, I’m
going to go get a job.” I talked to my brother who was
working for Southwestern Bell and he arranged for me
to get an interview and so I took a job working
in our computer room. Doing late night jobs hanging
tapes on tape drives. Fixing programming jobs in
the middle of the night. It was real exciting. Actually I tell people the
programming aspect of it, I look back, it was probably one of the
funnest jobs I ever had. So all of us are first
generation college students and some of us are dealing
with working two jobs, going to college and dealing with these
life changing decisions. I’m sort of curious what
sort of big decisions were you making at our age? My father was uh in the
agriculture business and so I, I started out in college
as an animal husbandry major and how to care for and take
care of large animals. Cattle and so forth. I didn’t do very well, to be be quite honest
with you my first year. And I literally took a year out
and just worked with my dad. He told me, “I never had a
college education and you know we could work together and I
think we can do quite well.” And uh, after a year I said, “No I think that’s
something I need to do. And I need to do it for
myself and for my family,” and so I’m glad I did it. I don’t know that
it is for everyone but I think it was the
right decision for me. More than anything I believe what one should try to
glean from college and what one should get
from college is learning how to think and learning
how to think independently. (Randall)
We’re all raised and we’re
all raised with you know, the biases of the
communities where we live, and our parents and
that is all good but college exposes you to
new and different things and I began to take a number
of business classes, particularly accounting, it was
part of the normal curriculum. And I found I was
quite good at it and fell in love with it and
so one thing led to another and I went to business school
and I received a master’s from the University of
Oklahoma but I needed a job. I had a wife and child while
I was going to college and so I started working
at a company called Southwestern Bell and while I
was going through school and I got a phone call from one of
our executives in St. Louis and I’ll never forget; He called me after one of
these late night shifts, I was sound asleep
and he asked, “Hey, could I get you to
come see me in St. Louis and let’s have a conversation.” And like my question
to him was, ‘Who’s going to
pay for the trip, I was broke, alright. I had no money. And he said, “If you come up
here, I’ll pay for the trip.” And so I went up and he talked
to me about the opportunities in what was Southwestern
Bell at the time. They just divested from AT&T, they needed professional
talent in accounting and finance and those type of
areas and he offered me a job and I was really enthused
and excited about it. That’s another one of
these big decisions. I made the decision to go to
St. Louis and continue working for Southwestern Bell. Mr. Stephenson, you are
the Chairman and CEO of the world’s largest
telecommunications company, I see that as being
very, very successful. So how would you, personally,
how would you define success? What you just said
is very exciting. It’s very fun. I find the work very
satisfying. But at the end of the
day, success, failure, satisfaction from my job,
it’s about the people side. About the people
interaction. Whatever you’re doing, whether it is cooking dinner
this evening for your family, whether it is doing a
task as CEO of AT&T, whether it is mowing
your lawn on Saturday, seek excellence in every
single thing you do. Establish a pattern,
establish a habit of, ‘Whatever I take on, whatever
I am doing at this instant,’ do it with excellence. Try to achieve perfection. Don’t be crazy about that. But just have an attitude that, ‘I want excellence at
everything I do.’ And if you pursue
excellence in everything it becomes habitual, alright? Whatever it is you touch, you touch with an
intention of excellence. And if I have great, as
you characterize success, if I have the great fortune
of doing these great things with AT&T and in the
telecommunications world but my family is not happy or I don’t enjoy my
time with my family, I don’t get to spend
time with my family, that is not success
in my mind, okay. Because you are letting down
and you are failing at the relationships that are
most important to you. If I am not successful in
having and establishing great relationships with the
people that I work with day in and day out,
then I’m failing. But at the end of the
day, success in my mind is what effect have you
had on other people. (Felipe)
Thank you so much, I really appreciate this,
take care. (Jasmine)
So we got a call saying oh we
might have to go to Seattle, we have Howard Schultz CEO
of Starbucks who is like, really ready for an
interview like, can ya’ll do it are
ya’ll ready to do it? (Jonathan)
I’ve never flown on an
airplane ever before. Um, I’ve always had this
fear of flying and um, I realized that planes
aren’t that bad I mean, just get on a plane
and go to sleep, when you wake up you’re
in a new state. (Jasmine)
When we landed it was just
like a culture shock it was like what is this? Because we went from burning
hot heat to cold and rain. (Jenny)
Traveling has been really,
really beneficial because not only have I found
places that I really love, but I can feel
myself being pulled to a different
place physically. (Howard)
I grew up in
Brooklyn, New York. I lived in the projects which is
federally subsidized housing. My brother and sister
and I saw things that were skewed towards
the fracturing of the American Dream and I think
it gave us an understanding that we would have
to work very hard to not be defined
by the station we were in life at that time. And I’m a product of that. What was it like uh,
going from like, from your high school
in Brooklyn to uh, going into college? What was that transition like? (Howard)
That was 1971. You guys were not even
thought about. I left Brooklyn, I went
to Michigan and uh, I didn’t know anybody and
I was scared, insecure. My sophomore year in college, I was donating blood in
order to eat. You remember those things. (Felipe)
As first generation students sometimes we have the
sense of uncertainty as to where we’re going. I’m wondering if you had
any of those feelings after graduating from college,
entering the real world. (Howard)
Well I’d go a step further not
only uncertainty but fear. Fear of failure, fear
of the unknown, fear of not making it, fear
of disappointing people. Most people who have
achieved great success have had failures. You want to be the
kind of person who is going to
overcome adversity and learn from it and overcome
the challenges of life because it’s not an easy life, it’s hard, it’s
challenging, it’s rough. There’s always going to
be people who tell you and they told me that what
you’re aspiring to do or dreaming about or tempting
to do can’t be done, ‘You’re aiming too high.’ The greatest strength you
have is your convictions and your core purpose
about what you want to do and how you want to live
and define your life. And you shouldn’t allow anyone, and this may not be
politically correct, even your parents to tell you
your dreams can’t come true. So what I say to you is when you look in the mirror
and you reflect back, ensure the fact that you’re proud of the
decisions you’re making, the kind of person you
are. (Jasmine)
When I went skydiving, I was told to leave
some stuff in the sky. Don’t bring it down with
me. Leave some stuff in the sky
what can I leave in the sky? What is it that I don’t want
to bring down with me? What is it that I can’t
carry anymore? When the door opened
and I hit the wind, I felt like something hit
my chest and it was like, let it go. I started to scream, I really
just started screaming and I felt like as
I was screaming, all the screams
that nobody heard, all the screams that I
felt like were ignored, all the pain that I felt, I felt like it was just
drifting out in that scream and I felt this sense
of weightlessness. And I feel like that
is the lightest I’ve ever been in my life. And when we land, I felt like
I landed in a new place. It was the same field
that I had taken off in, but it was in that
moment when I decided that I’m going to be different,
I’m going to change. It’s not all at once, It’s not going to happen
just in an instance, but just keep working
and just keep growing and just keep trying and
just, just don’t give up. (Felipe)
Driving down Birmingham,
I was thinking about the history behind Birmingham,
the civil rights movement. (Jasmine)
Birmingham is like
the melting pot of the civil rights movement. It’s where everything
got its attention from it was from Alabama and being a history major
going into education and going to teach history, what better way to
get my information than from the source from
someone who sat there. Ms. Odessa Woolfolk was
a civil rights activist and she actually participated
in the movement itself that happened in Alabama. (Odessa)
I was a teacher in 1963 when the civil rights
movement in Birmingham reached its crescendo. And several of the students
that I taught then went to jail, marched, etc. Now I’m not all that brave, but everybody doesn’t have
to be on the front line. So I ended up being a
teacher. (Guide)
You’re gonna have 50
unsolved bombings if you talked about
voting rights, your house could be bombed. If you were a person that
talked about integrating a local swimming pool, your house would be
bombed. And Birmingham gets
this awful nickname and it’s gonna go from being
the magic city “Birmingham” to “Bombingham” the tragic city. (Jasmine)
Present day when you
look across the streets to the parking you see
all the different monuments and the statues of
what is represented as what happened in the
civil rights movement like, how does that make you feel
knowing that you were there, you were part of that? It’s spiritual. Um, it’s spiritual and whenever
I go through the park and I recollect those
individuals and their lives and how important
their lives were. If I’m over there I
think about everybody who was a part of that
made it possible for you not to have
to go through that. I don’t think anybody
who has been successful has had a pain-free life because pain is the stem
of us. Embarrassment, falling on
your face is a motivator. You owe it to yourselves
to look deep down inside and tap into doing something for somebody other
than yourself. (Jasmine)
You like to separate
yourself from the past and say this happened but whatever they learned from
it we learned from it, we’re just going to
move forward now but seeing that museum was like, this is real. This happened. They didn’t know that I
was going to be here but yet they fought
for me anyway. Because of what they fought for,
I’ve been given this life it’s‚ It just makes you
feel so blessed. (Alejandra)
When I was 19 I thought I
would take a very easy road, a two year degree, maybe
become a secretary because I had an older
cousin that was a secretary working in city hall and
so that was appealing. And now seeing the
journey in my career having this opportunity
as executive director of the White House initiative
on educational excellence, I get to work with secretary
Arne Duncan and President Obama on how do we ensure
that every child has a quality
education and for me, right now I’m in my dream job so I don’t even
know after this, what I would do because I have
the opportunity to do outreach and I have the opportunity
to work on policy, um, and work with my community. The more I explored
about opportunities and what college
would offer me, the more I learned that I
could do anything I wanted to if I was equipped with
the education degree that would open
those doors for me. There are still times where
I’m afraid of the what-ifs but I just know so many doors
have been opened to me because of my education and
it’s that grit and resilience that’s really going to
get you to achieve your dreams and your goals. It’s going to be tough
there will be times where you fall down, but um,
your job is not to avoid falling down it’s to make sure
that each time it happens, that you get up and you move in
the only direction that matters and that’s forward. (Jasmine)
We’re sitting in front of the
department of education and um, two people just like walked up and they were like,
“Someone saw your RV “so we went and told Mr. Duncan and he wants to interview
you guys today.” And we’re like, “Yeah.” (Felipe)
We’ll see if we
can squeeze him in. (Arne)
What’s going on guys,
you living out here? (Felipe)
Yes. How you doing? (Jasmine)
So did you always know
that you were going to end up in education
or is that like– (Arne)
I had a pretty
unique upbringing I grew up in high park in
the south side of Chicago which is a middle class
integrated neighborhood. My mother started an inner
city tutoring program on the south side of Chicago and literally raised me
and my sister and brother from the time we were born
as a part of her program. What we saw every
day were kids who had huge challenges at
home, in the community, but because they had my mom and
other people in their lives they went on to do
absolutely amazing things. This job, I didn’t
even know existed, but to have an impact first running an after-school
program myself, then helping start a small
public school on the outside, then working for the
Chicago public school then leading them,
then coming here, this is what I love. This is my passion and I didn’t
necessarily know at your age concretely what that meant, but I knew I wanted
to help kids who weren’t born with all
the advantages that I had but had as much or more
potential and sort of, fill that potential
with opportunity, meet that potential
with real opportunity. Um, what advice do you have
for us moving forward in our life and on the road that we can pass down to others
or just keep to ourselves? (Arne)
Well first of all, you guys
are just amazing role models and leaders now, like,
not future leaders but like, leaders now. Being the first in your family,
not just going to college but completing college. I absolutely believe you’re
changing not just your lives but the lives of your children, and your grandchildren and
your great grandchildren. You’re changing
generations of lives in a profound way that
may be even hard for you to comprehend now. And so you guys living this beyond living on this
bus for 5 weeks and traveling the country
which is fantastic, the example you set
every day is huge. (Jonathan)
Do you mind reading it
to us if you could? (Arne)
Yeah, my handwriting is
not very good is it? Thanks for the example
of great leadership you give young people and
the nation every day. I’m proud of you guys. (Felipe)
That was cool, man. That was awesome what
just happened. I’m still getting over the fact
that the Secretary of Education wanted to specifically
meet with us. (Felipe)
Just talked to us,
it was awesome. (Jasmine) He sat on my bed. (Felipe)
He sat on your bed? (Jasmine)
He sat on my bed. (Felipe)
i didn’t see that, let
me see that step again. There you go, that’s the
motivation step. (Jasmine)
I met I Arne Duncan,
I met I Arne Duncan, (Leader)
So I came to this
country in high school. I knew of America
from watching TV so I thought all black
people in America were like Fresh Prince. Uncle Phil, yay! I’m so excited. And then I though all white
families were like Full House. I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m gonna win,
this is going to be great.’ And when I arrived, when
I say culture shock, it’s actually an understatement. It was just‚ smack in the face. So for me because I
didn’t understand the American vernacular I was put
in Special Ed and I think that was tough for me because
I came from an environment where everyone looked
like me and it was easy, I just show up and do my thing. Freshman year of high school, I
looked like a young boy I would go days sometimes
without talking to anyone and anyone even talking to me or even noticing I was there to the point where I
started isolating myself so instead of going to
lunch to the cafeteria, I would go to the bathroom
and I would sit up you know, like when you put your
feet up on the toilet and I would open my lunch
bag really slowly, like in the brown bag, and eat, make sure nobody sees me. And, let’s say you finish, going to the bathroom and you
go wash your hands, I would not look up in the
mirror. I was afraid to see
the person I was because everyone around
me didn’t look like me, and they spoke differently,
and they were beautiful. They were like checking their
make-up, fixing their hair. I’m like, let me just wash my
hands and get out of here because I thought, like if
I looked up in the mirror and I fixed anything
they would think, ‘She really thinks
she’s even pretty or beautiful.’ Like, that isolation did so much
damage for my self esteem. It took me years to
build that back. I just did not come into myself
until way later in life. Sometimes, at my school, I
feel like I don’t belong. I feel like there’s
the athletes, then there are the black greeks and there are the white greeks and then there’s just
like everybody else that’s trying to
find their way in. Like, How did you get
over that feeling of just not feeling like
you belonged in a place? (Vienna)
So, my senior year I was not
yet a permanent resident so I couldn’t go
away to school. At that time I was young enough
to think of it as, ‘why me’? I have worked, I deserve
to go away to school. I deserve an education. It’s the reason why I came
to this country. But I was so busy
comparing myself to everybody else’s experience, I really was not
centered in where I was and then standing and
celebrating my journey. And I wish I had because
you miss out on yourself. I say that a lot, I
missed out on myself when I was busy
trying to fit in and be like everyone else. I missed out on my own
experience. So my advice would be don’t. (Jonathan)
What was that defining moment when you figured out who
you were as a person? (Vienna)
So I launched the
Invisibleneighbors.com in September and I was
telling a friend, I was like, I wrote this story
about my first year in America but I’m afraid to share it. And, it stopped becoming a
shameful thing. it started becoming an
owning thing. Owning who you are, owning every part of
your experience. When I wrote that story about
my first year in America, I thought people were
going to get it, people who were
immigrants, just… and also had a
rough first year. Nah, I connected with
pretty much everyone. They were like yeah,
I can, I can, that’s how you’re
connecting us, by sharing your little
personal thing you thought you were alone, we get to relate to that. When you guys came here and told me your
stories, it almost, it brings me to tears because
I know what it’s like to have an alcoholic parent. I know what it’s like to
live without a parent. I know what it’s like to
live in poverty. I know what it’s like to have to figure
things out on my own. And feeling isolated
in those struggles because we’re ashamed to
share when we struggle. Regardless of the struggle
you’re going through, I can validate that because
I’m not the only one, you’re not the only one,
I’m not the only one, we’re all connected in
this. And actually, I like it. I like the struggle because I think I’m
worthy of that struggle. Everything that I’ve
imagined would be so bad and would break me down
has left me right here, in front of you, strong. (Jenny)
It’s not like I have
this desire to like, meet people and be like, “Oh hey, nice to meet
you my name is Jenny. “I lost my mom when I was ten and my dad is an alcoholic
and he’s in jail.” But if I trust that
person enough and explain how its made
me a stronger person so that way, I can help them. It’s definitely a benefit that came out of growing
up the way I did. (Jasmine)
I have mixed emotions about
the ending of the trip. I want to go home but I
don’t want to go home. I want to stay here but
then I’m like, ehh. Like, I’m ready for
my space and freedom but I feel like I’m just going
to miss everybody so much. (Jenny)
Like, I’ve been saying
this whole time, I’ve been telling my friends
and stuff back at home, like, I could do
roadtrip forever. I haven’t gotten tired
of doing interviews, I haven’t gotten tired of being
around with these people. I’ve never been happier. (Jonathan)
New york has always been a
place I wanted to go to. Broadway, Statue of
Liberty, museums, I want to do everything
in New York. (Felipe)
Immediately you get the
sense of the city, you know horns blaring,
music playing, then smells. It was sort of like everything
else was training for this. You made it here, to the
end. (Jasmine)
We are about to
interview John Legend who is a popular R&B singer, he is a very big humanitarian, and he’s just really about
making a positive change in the community. (John)
So, at 19 and 20 I was at the University of
Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. And, uh, I didn’t know
exactly what I wanted to do, so from ages 20 through 23 I was doing management
consulting during the day, and then performing
and recording and doing musical
things at night. And so uh, it was
a lot going on but my goal was to always be
exactly where I am right now. (Felipe)
What kind of road
blocks and failures have you had in your
life that made you the person that you are now? And how did you deal with
them at the time? Well there’s, there’s all kinds
of issues that have come up. You know, one of them was when
my parents got divorced. That was very difficult
for me. Another obstacle was just being a first generation
college student. I was definitely a
fish out of water when I first arrived
in Philadelphia. And my parents didn’t
have all the tools that they needed to give me
great advice on how to do that, so you know you have to
meet other people and connect with other people
that can help you. Um, you know, there were record
labels that turned me down, and people did say no to me but I never felt like any
doors were completely closed. I always looked at it as, ‘No, for now and uh, come back later and
maybe we’ll say yes.’ As a successful
recording artist, how would you define success? (John)
Well I think success
has a lot to do with finding something you love and putting everything
you have into it. And if you do that, you’re going to end up
being really good at it because you put so much
time and energy into it and you’re going to get
joy from doing it. I fell in love with music
at a young age. I loved being on stage, I loved
performing in front of a crowd, and so when you love
something like that it makes you want to figure
out how to do it forever. (Jasmine)
As all being first
generation college students, all of us are like on
a similar journey, what kind of advice
do you think we should live by in
our daily lives? Well I think first of
all, don’t give up. To be successful in life
you have to be able to get past these obstacles
that are in your way. You have to… you know you’re going to
struggle with certain things you know, you may have
issues paying for college. Uh, you may have issues not
knowing all the skills that you need to know to
navigate the situation because you’re
first generation. It’s going to be harder for
you than for other people, but what’s going to make
successful, is if you, despite these challenges, figure
out a way to make it work. And you can do it. (Felipe)
Being first gen, we’re
not the first explorers and sometimes it feels like
we are, but we’re not. We’re the first to do it here. We’re the first to do it now. The fact that I didn’t
hear about college until my junior year
of high school. That speaks volumes here
about what needs to be done in the community and I was
one of the lucky ones. My next part is mobilizing that
first generation community because
a lot of people don’t have that
kind of fortune and I want to be the person
who reaches out to them, gives them that hand, so that they do have
that ability to say, “I’m one of the lucky ones.” (Jenny)
We’re interviewing, uh,
Anna Maria Chavez, the CEO of girls scouts
USA. (Felipe)
And it’s really special for us because it’s coming
down to a close. This is our last interview
of the trip. I feel, I feel good, I just
think it’s kind of sad, because I mean since
this is the last one that means we’ll be splitting
up and have to go back home. So‚ I’m going to
miss these guys. (Anna Maria)
So I actually grew up in
a very small farm town. I didn’t realize what a
different experience I was living until I
got to high school. Um, because we
moved to Phoenix, where I was a minority. And that’s when really, sort
of the labels came on, like oh, ‘Girl at risk,’
or ‘Girl of color.’ And I was like, well that has
nothing to do with my identity. I’m Anna Maria Chavez. When I was growing
up in Arizona, I happened to be introduced
to the girl scouts. That’s when I
discovered my passion, around protecting
the environment and our infrastructure
for future generations, and literally because of that, I decided at the age of 12 I
wanted to become an attorney. And so, I went to
our public library, and I talked to the
librarian and I said, “How do I do this? How do I get into law school?” She’s like, “Well it’s a
very deliberate path. “You know, you’ve got to
graduate from high school “with good grades, you’ve got
to get into a university, “and then you got to
get into law school, and then you got to
pass a bar exam.” And that can be pretty daunting
at the age of 12, right? And so, I opened up the
books and said, “Okay. Gotta graduate from high
school, I gotta do this.” So, that is why my parents
moved us to Phoenix. Because they wanted me to have a really good experience
in high school. And, um, so that was my path, and it all started
because of girl scouts. (Jenny)
So, we would like to
know what it was like and where you were
at our age range, which is from 19 to 24. (Anna Maria)
19-24. At 19, I was at Yale. Applied honestly because they
sent me a brochure in the mail. And I was so naive, I thought, “Oh, they’re sending
me a brochure, Yale must want me to go.” This was, you know,
the late 80s. Um, my freshman year
I was one of 16 Mexican-American
students on campus. And so, everything was
different about me. You know, I had never
seen snow before, I hadn’t gone to
boarding school, it was my first time
away from home, I was so homesick. There were a lot of obviously
driven people around me. Most of them were valedictorians
of their high schools. So I was constantly like, ‘Ok when are they going to
find out it was a mistake and pull my admission,’
right? ‘So I better get this
degree now.’ But for me, I had waited
so long to get to college that I had a blast. I just focused and did as
much as I could. How does the work you do today relate to that 12
year old Anna Maria who figured out that this
was her purpose in life? Thank you for that question. First of all, I can’t
believe I’m doing this job. It is the most
amazing opportunity. Every time I wake up I think about how blessed
I am, right? I could literally have gone down
a completely different path. If you had looked back, during the 1960s
when I was born in a particular segment
of this country, every social indicator,
every economic indicator surrounding me pointed me
down a different path. So, ‘Why me’? Why was I allowed to go
down this certain path? Every time I’ve stepped
into a new situation, I’m normally the
first of, right? There hasn’t been a long
path of people before me to reach back and go, “Ok here’s the playbook. Go for it.” It’s gonna get a little scary. But your only job in life
is to stay on that track because you are destined
to do great things. So regardless of what
people are throwing at you and what barriers they
put in your track, don’t worry about it. Because nobody can change
your track. Only you can. (Felipe)
When we started this trip
we asked, ‘Why us?’ ‘Why us?’ And now I’m asking, ‘Why
not us?’ (Felipe)
I’m not squeezing. Somebody’s squeezing (Jenny)
After being on this trip, I definitely know that
I’m on the right track with my major and
my minor because, the fear has definitely
calmed down about wasting money
or wasting time. And uh, I feel like after maybe
meeting with a counselor a couple times, I can
probably declare. Probably by the end of
this semester coming up. (Jonathan)
This road trip was a road
to self realization. Being a bio-med major and trying
to become a doctor I felt like I had
to do it because everybody expected that from me but, I’ve realized it’s all
internal, it’s coming from me. I need to stop putting so
much pressure on myself and trying to make what I think
is everyone’s expectations my priority. And I need to start thinking
of myself The Jonathan I was before this
roadtrip And the Jonathan now are
like two different extremes Like, the Jonathan before this
road trip is still in California. I left him there. The Jonathan now is in New
York. This is the one I’m going
to take with me back home. (Felipe)
A lot of people are surviving. Trying to make ends meet 9
to 5. Then second job, putting
food on the table. And we know all those people, a lot of them come
from our background. Or our families, fathers,
mothers, sisters, brothers. But this summer we lived. We had the opportunity to
actually leave all that. To say, we don’t have to work a
9 to 5 today I don’t have to go to my
internship, I don’t have to go work at the hotel. We didn’t have to do that. We got to really dive
into some heavy stuff. Ask those questions
that a lot of people don’t have the time to ask because they don’t
have the luxury to. This summer we lived. We lived. (Jasmine)
This summer, I changed my life. That’s what I did. I traveled, I saw places, I sat in the middle of
fears and conquered them. And I feel like I have
worth now. (Jenny)
I hope I can look back
on roadtrip and, look back at the end of
it and how I feel now, in my own skin and I hope, I hope I never forget that
I hope I never lose it. I want to be able to remember and remind myself how
happy I can make myself without anybody else’s help. ♪ (Narrator)
The College Board has
made it possible for this presentation to be
shared on public television stations across the country, helping a nation of young people
find their own roads in life. The College Board, connect
to college success. This program is part of American
Graduate. Let’s make it happen. A public media initiative
made possible by the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting.

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