My involvement in OneGoal over the past four years has taught me many lessons. However, the one that stands out most vividly to me is learning what it means to be a part of a community, and how that community can be leveraged to empower myself and my peers around me. You see, I grew up on the north side of Houston and I went to Jefferson Davis High School, now known as Northside High School, in the Houston Independent School District. Back then, community always seemed more about sticking to what you know. You didn’t expand your social circle, or try to differ from the standard that came with being a part of that group. All I knew at that time was being my family’s income provider and getting average grades. I felt like that was enough. I went to school, I went to work, and I went home. That was my routine. Throughout this time, I was able to see all the beauty that surrounded Northside High school, even if I didn’t seem to be an active part of it. I saw the passion teachers had and their desire to do better by their students. I saw many of my peers striving for more, yet I didn’t think I was capable of doing the same. I don’t know if it was luck, or destiny, or me being forced to apply for OneGoal so I could get the extra credit I needed to pass my chemistry class—whatever the case, I am thankful. I still look back on my junior year of high school and think about the first time I stepped into that OneGoal classroom. I was skeptical when I first walked in. The OneGoal program director was Ms. Garner, my freshman year biology teacher. She and I didn’t have the best history due to my only showing up for about 30 minutes of her classes all of freshman year. Ms. Garner was honest with us from the start. I recall her saying that we were all there together, not because we were the top students of the school, but because we each had untapped potential. Within the OneGoal classroom, we learned to pick each other up at our lowest moments and applaud every success. I learned to confide and rely on other students, and for someone like me who solely depended on herself, that was a big deal. To this day, I can call anyone from my cohort for support, whether it’s sharing how great we’re doing, helping each other with the latest unsolvable math problem, or calling each other out when we have misstepped. I built a community like no other; a community that expanded even further when I started working closely with the OneGoal-Houston staff. During my freshman year of college, and my third year as a OneGoal Fellow, I was not able to deal with so many of the changes around me, and I ended up failing every class that semester. I did miserably, and yet not one person connected with OneGoal lost faith in me. My program director pushed me to find a more suitable living environment for me, even offering her home at one point. My classmates told me I would persevere just like I had done multiple times before. The OneGoal-Houston staff shed many tears with me and helped me jump over every hurdle. And now I am here, a straight-A student in college, more confident than ever about myself all due to a OneGoal class and the community that came with it.
OneGoal made me continue to push forward. It helped me learn that I had a strength in me like no other, and it allowed me to tap into the untapped potential that I was told about my first day in class. I know life doesn’t get easier as you age, but with the right people surrounding you it sure gets easier to keep pushing forward. I urge everyone to think about the type of community you have around you and how it has helped you or how you could help it. I have built bonds like no other because this one class expanded my views regarding the community around me, and I am humbled to have been given this opportunity.
Isabel Garcia is a first-generation college student and OneGoal fellow. She is currently studying English at Houston Community College. Her long term goals are to grow in her knowledge of education as a teacher, with the future expectation of becoming an Executive Director of a OneGoal Region.