On Wednesday, January 29th, Head of Middle School Boni Luna and faculty members Adriana Arroyave and Archana Sankar shared their personal stories as immigrants to the United States with MBS 6th Graders, who are studying human migration in their geography classes.
Each speaker discussed the “push-pull” factors that led them to leave their homeland and seek a better life in the United States.
Spanish teacher Adriana Arroyave was born and raised in Medellín, Colombia, where organized crime and drug trafficking grew increasingly common in the 1980s.
“It was a difficult time,” she recalled. “There was violence between the drug cartels and the government in the 1980s and it wasn’t safe.”
At the same time, her parents believed strongly that the United States could provide a better economic future for her family. “My parents thought it would be safer in America and it would help us get a better education and ultimately a better job,” she said. “It was very difficult to put everything I had in two pieces of luggage and start a new life here. In the beginning, I didn’t know the language and would think about the friends and family back home. In the end, though, all of the ideas that my parents had really came through.”
She concluded her presentation by showing a picture of herself with her daughter, who recently graduated from an Ivy League school, the University of Pennsylvania. She stated that throughout her journey, “Education has been my point of reference and the best opportunity to climb the ladder of success.”
Head of Middle School Boni Luna was born in a mountain village in Cuba and emigrated when she was just 7 years old. “Fidel Castro was in power and it was really a military dictatorship. To escape the political unrest, a lot of families sent their children to live with families in the United States until they themselves were able to leave,” said Mrs. Luna, who came to the U.S. with her grandparents to live with an uncle while her parents and little brother stayed behind.
“It caused a lot of emotional pain to know you’d be separated from your family. I didn’t see my parents again until I was in college, so when I saw them again I was grown up,” said Mrs. Luna. “When I saw my little brother for the first time, I didn’t know who he was because when I left he was a baby.”
Mrs. Luna grew up in a Spanish ghetto in Miami and didn’t know how to speak English for the first three years of her life in America. Still, she was able to escape poverty thanks to her passion for learning. “Education was the one thing that saved me,” she said. “I was able to leave the inner city because I loved learning and was able to get an education. When I see all of you, I know the power that education has to shape you and take you where you want to go.”
Science teacher Archana Sankar was born in Mumbai, India where she had a middle class upbringing and was taught English from an early age. She and her husband ultimately decided to leave the country in 2001 after becoming increasingly uncomfortable with India’s population density and competition for resources.
“We have 1 billion people in India, and a typical public school classroom has 80 students. Everything is very competitive and it’s not easy to get into college,” she said. “In Mumbai, you also have the ultra-rich and you have the ultra-poor. For people like me in the middle, it was hard to get anywhere.”
Two of Mrs. Sankar’s brothers had also moved to the United States to become doctors, which cemented her decision. Still, it’s never easy to leave your home country, she said.
“I had a good upbringing and I knew English, but it still has taken me 15 years to feel settled here,” she said, adding that the educational and career opportunities in the United States are unparalleled.
“If you work hard, there is no place in the world where you can achieve success like the United States,” she said. “If you work hard, you can achieve anything.”