Amy Martinez came to the United States on a bus as a small child with her family. They all had misconceptions about life here, believing that everyone would be wealthy. Amy’s parents came to the United States to seek a better life for their children, so Amy and her siblings have a strong sense of responsibility to not disappoint them. In fact, Martinez hopes to make her parents proud by having a respected career after graduating from college. She is goal-oriented, confident, and highly motivated to achieve her realistic, redefined American Dream.
Martinez is first in her family to go to college, and like many others who are oldest children in their own families, she is taking on different responsibilities to support her siblings and parents. She resides in a multigenerational home, a two-bedroom apartment, with her parents and two siblings. Her great passion is working with children. She loves babysitting as well as working as a camp counselor. All this work is performed while Martinez studies to obtain her esthetician license. After she becomes an esthetician, she hopes to continue her education in a nursing school. Martinez has already taken speech therapy training to enhance her work with children and further improve her own English skills.
Martinez also needs to practice speaking Spanish more often, while her parents struggle with English. They help each other and Martinez’s school also provided language access support through a program for immigrant students who teach their parents to improve their English skills. Being raised in the U. S. for most of her life, Amy has lost touch with some of her cultural values and that also affected her Spanish language proficiency, especially when she speaks with her elders. But the Martinez family socializes during holidays, organizing large parties for Christmas, New Year, and during other occasions to keep their traditions alive. Through her maternal relatives, Amy has learned the value of being family-oriented and is grateful for this teaching.
Martinez is also grateful that she can work to help her family. The pandemic has slowed down the processing of immigration relief applications, including her younger sister’s DACA application, and in the meantime, she cannot lawfully work without proper work authorization. She knows that her neighborhood is full of stories like hers, and she wishes that resources were allocated equitably to provide relief, improve her neighborhood, renovate homes, and clean up the local sidewalks and streets to allow her family and others to experience more of their American Dreams… She has observed that many homes in her neighborhood in San Jose appear run-down. Systemic changes are needed to address inequities and uplift low-income communities.
Amy has not been directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, but she has seen many impacts in our local communities. She volunteers at schools that organize food drives to help affected community members and provide temporary relief. Martinez hopes that her story, her work, and determination can inspire her siblings and other first-generation immigrants whose life is not easy. She believes that they will also find motivation to pursue their own dreams and strive to make their communities better. In the end, she emphasized that we should be bold as we continue to move forward, adding “live your life, because life is short.”
The interview and narrative were done by Nazaneen Nawabi.