First Generation: Junior Paola Campos

[dropcap]J[/dropcap]unior Paola Campos was born and raised in the United States. She plays soccer after school, takes AP English and stresses about college applications. The entire college process and experience is especially important to Paola as she will be the first in her family to attend.

Junior Paola Campos. Photo by Carl Faust.

“College is the first big decision I get to make on my own… and it’s a huge deal for me,” Paola said. “It definitely encourages me to try to go further because I know that it’s something I need to take advantage of because I know there are other people that don’t have the same… opportunity as I have.”

Outside of being first-generation, Paola appears to be the same as any other high schooler. But what makes Paola different from a lot of other students at LAHS is not what she does, but the way she talks about it. Instead of complaining about how much homework she has to finish for all her classes, she talks about how lucky she is to go to such an amazing high school.

“I get to go to school with a ton of kids from different backgrounds,” Paola said. “It has been an incredible opportunity because I get to learn from them every time we discuss things in class… I just love that LAHS is so diverse and I get to learn all these new things about different cultures.”

Paola has been able to contribute substantially to these class discussions on different cultures and lifestyles around the world. Although she was born in the United States, her parents are originally from Mexico. When she went back there to visit her extended family, she said the cultural divide between the U.S. and Mexico that her parents always mention really hit home.

“You have to get used to it,” Paola said. “You have to get used to… knowing that the ground is going to be dirty and knowing that there [are] going to be leaks and knowing that half the time the toilet isn’t going to work—you don’t have plumbing 24/7. And you don’t have a washing machine or a dishwasher so you have to do [a lot of] things by hand.”

When she hopped on a quick, six-hour flight and returned home to California after spending two weeks submerged in the Mexican culture, Paola found herself starting to appreciate the luxuries she had at home a lot more. However, there were also parts of Mexico she realized she missed.

“I prefer some of the ways that they live,” Paola said. “The simplicity of their lives was just something that I admired and that I wished I had here… But I also missed [working] to get something because it’s all super easy [in America]. And I’m not saying that that’s a problem, I’m just saying it’s gotten easier for us to become lazier. I like the stories that my parents tell me about their hard work and all that they had to face when they were growing up.”

But Paola emphasized that she didn’t always think that way. She said she used to hate doing all her chores so she’d tell her mom she was going to get rich and hire maids to do her work when she grew up. But when she noticed how her parents always do of all their own work, her mindset changed.

“My mom does the yard work [and] my dad still fixes things,” Paola said. “He doesn’t like to call in repair people… And it’s something that I want to carry on… I just want to be able to fix things if there ever comes a situation when I don’t have [help] available to me.”

Passing on this resilient mindset to her younger siblings and posterity is important to Paola because she feels like it’s what will keep her connected to her Mexican heritage.

Although Paola can identify a clear split of cultures within herself, she doesn’t feel that it’s to her disadvantage. However, she has been insulted before by people who judge her based on her background and not her accomplishments.

“I had an incident here where I was in a group and we were supposed to be talking about the classes we were taking,” Paola said. “I mentioned that I was a year ahead in math. And there was a comment like, ‘Oh that’s weird you’re Mexican, I thought you were supposed to be dumb.’” 

There was a comment like, ‘Oh that’s weird you’re Mexican, I thought you were supposed to be dumb.’

-Junior Paola Campos”

She said that despite this, she feels a sense of power in being able to prove to those people that despite the stereotype surrounding her background, she can still achieve high academic standards.

But it’s not only being able to show her younger sisters the full extent of what they can achieve in the future that fuels Paola in her desire to work hard in school. She also wants to repay her parents for all their struggles and hard work in America and ensure her own family won’t face the same challenges in the future.

Yet, no matter how far she advances in the U.S and how much she accomplishes, Paola is sure she will always hold on to her Mexican heritage and culture. 

In my English class, I try to incorporate some of [my culture] into my writing. Not necessarily Spanish language, but just like what it means to be Mexican because that’s a big part of me.


“In my English class, I try to incorporate some of [my culture] into my writing,” Paola said. “Not necessarily Spanish language, but just like what it means to be Mexican because that’s a big part of me.”