Paul Cabrera


LaGuardia ASAP Semi-Annual Awards Ceremony

April 20, 2009


About three and a half years ago, I started a completely new life in this amazing--but at that time unknown--city. The only reason for my immigrating to this country was to learn English. However, during this process I got to know the beauty and fortune of living in this country, the incredible experiences that a diverse culture can offer. I soon decided to get a degree here in the U.S.  Unfortunately, I had no idea where to go or where to begin. Since I did not know how the educational system worked here and I had no one to guide me, I started by getting my GED and taking English classes at the same time. The first school I visited in New York was LaGuardia Community College. At that time, studying at LaGuardia, let alone graduating from it, was just a dream.  Today, that dream has come true.

When I finally got into LaGuardia, I had to go through many difficulties that made me think that I might not be able to make it. I first had to pass my remedial classes, improve my English, and work to support myself. I remember that in my first English class the professor asked me that if I knew English and I was so nervous that I said, "Yes, a little,"-- but I said it in Spanish, so every body in the class started to laugh. Life was not easy at that time; it is still not easy.  When I thought about quitting and just being one of so many people who have started but never completed something, I realized that there many people that have overcome even more difficult problems that I had.  If they could make it, so could I.  Then, as if it was a miracle, I received a letter from the ASAP program offering me such unbelievable help: metro cards, financial aid, books, counseling and the opportunity to get my associates degree faster.  Some people had already told me that in America the government will help you to study by giving you books and paying tuition, but until then none of those things were true for me. This was an offer that I could not reject!  First had to pass one of my biggest problems--my reading and writing placement tests--which I did right on time.

That was the beginning of a new cycle in my life. I started to finally feel that there were people who believed in me and who could guide me toward my goals.  One professor that I will never forget for all the enthusiasm and confidence he gave to me is Santo Trapani. In addition to all the educational facilities that ASAP had to offer, its Career Center helped me to find a part-time job that fit with my class schedule and allowed me to support myself. In other words, ASAP has given me all the tools I need to work, learn, and achieve my goals. But the most important lesson that they have taught me is the ability to remain focused and to believe in myself.

In January of this year, I transferred to John Jay College to continue my education towards a bachelor's degree in Legal Studies; I hope to complete a master's degree in the future. I can tell you for sure that LaGuardia and the ASAP program have prepared us for higher education in a senior college. Of course, the transfer will not be easy--it represents a lot of responsibility and commitment--but if we apply what we learned here and if we know that we are able to make and create anything, we will be able to succeed and reach all our goals, including further education. Education is a long and difficult process throughout which we will change our minds and our goals a couple of times and we might feel lost and fail many others, but the point is not to give up. Our goals are in our hands. 


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