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My name is Luis Antezana and I’m a first-generation college graduate and professional.

I was born in Cochabamba, Bolivia. When I was seven, I remember being at the terminal with my entire family, dozens of us, crying, in tears. Not sure when we would see each other again. My parents had made the life-changing decision to leave Bolivia to give myself and my two brothers opportunity and a better life.  Landing in Los Angeles, clustered in a one bed-room apartment, sleeping next to my two brothers on the same mattress and seeing my parents work what seemed all day and night was not my initial image of the American Dream. And it didn’t get much better thereafter. However, these experiences helped me build the resilience, empathy, and work-ethic for what was to come next. My senior year in high school I found out I was undocumented. This shattered me. I felt like a failure by default. But my efforts as a student allowed me the opportunity to receive a full-tuition scholarship to go to college and continue my education.

Graduating from college was by far one of the happiest days of my life. Because of the DACA program, I was able to start my career immediately as an educator and entrepreneur in Colorado. As an educator, I help students like me reach their dreams of attending college. As a  Co-Founder and CEO of Juntos For Education, I am able to address systemic problems in education for immigrant students in Colorado.

My experiences have taught me three things. 1) Whatever you choose to do next, you are making the right choice. Wake up, stretch, and get ready to break barriers. 2) Failure is necessary. Take the L (lesson) and learn from it. You’ll be surprised how many successes will come from your failures.  3) If you can read this, you are good enough. You are meant to be here. You belong here. And if you’re still struggling with imposter syndrome, just reach out to us. Us first-gen have been there. I’ve been there. There’s too many of us to let you fail. We will lift each other up.

And that’s the message I want to send out during this pandemic and time of civil unrest. We will reimagine and rebuild how society functions to truly bring opportunity and justice for all. So wake up and break barriers.

 


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