Ten Commandments for Latino students

It’s that time of the year, where the sound and the smell of school buses are in the air.

Having driven a school bus for seven years, I can relate to the sounds of those air brakes and the smell of the exhaust.

It also is that time for kids to meet and make new friends. New teachers are introduced to the world of educating kids of all backgrounds, beliefs and cultures. No doubt that there are more issues to face today than when I was a teacher.

“OK mijo, you look purdy,” were the words from my mother as I would walk out the door to face another school year. Mama Lolita would always do the best to provide her nine children with self-respect and the ability to respect others.

I don’t recall her warning me of some of the unexpected hurdles I had to jump over as a Latino. She thought school was about as sacred as catechism and that teachers were perfect and errorless. Surprise!

I finally accomplished one of my mother’s prayers, which was graduating from high school. It was after those four struggling and frustrating years that I understood that it would take twice as much work if I wanted to succeed.

Today, I can say that all the years of studying and hard work have brought me to a place where I can proudly say “Viva Estados Unidos” (Long live the United States). It is time to pass the baton to my younger Latino brothers and sisters.

After my experience as a student, teacher, community leader and a parent, I have learned to recognize some of the bumps on the road to getting an education. I will call them “Ten Commandments for a Latino student.”

1. Thou shall work hard, reach for the stars and don’t let anyone squelch your dream. Remember that your opportunities have been paved by the blood, sweat and tears of others. You got to have “ganas” (desire) to succeed.

2. Thou shall respect those in authority, obey the rules, but don’t let them strip you of your dignity when referred to with names that are insulting. Remember, it is your family honor that you must protect.

3. Thou shall help those that need help, be an example and don’t be arrogant if you come from a better environment or because you may be better economically than your Latino friends. Remember where you came from.

4. Thou shall be thankful for the good instruction and discipline your teachers provide, for the privileges of receiving an education — and do not be afraid to ask questions. You will always be lost in the map of life without direction.

5. Thou shall honor this country and its values, and don’t be waving your national flag as to mock our flag. Remember that thousands of Latinos have shed their blood for our freedom and for yours.

6. Thou shall not be surprised when you are called Ricky instead of Ricardo and be patient when they may want to Americanize your name. If you want to be referred to as Chuey, Flaco or Josie by your teacher and classmates, then asked them too. Remember that nicknames often reflect the character or personality of the person.

7. Thou shall not be upset when you are labeled a “gangbanger” if you wear their clothing, but if that is all you got, overpower that with good character, great citizenship and good manners. Remember the struggles your parents, grandparents and friends have gone through to get you a better life.

8. Thou shall not be embarrassed when students laugh when you say words like “shair” for “chair,” “teesher” for “teacher,” “estop for stop.” But continue to speak English because it will take you anywhere you want to go in life. Remember, you are bilingual and they’re not! Spanish is not a bad word, so be proud of your mother tongue.

9. Thou shall not be embarrassed to tell your story about your familia and culture and maintain the highest respect and honor for your parents. Regardless of the struggles they face, they gave you a chance at fulfilling your dream in America.

10. Thou shall not waste your opportunity of receiving an education, but take advantage of the freedom you have, so that tomorrow you will give back to your community.

So every morning as you head out to school, remember that you control your destiny.

You just got to have ganas.

Who would have thought that a boy born to parents with a fifth-grade education, a father that worked in the copper mines for 40 years and never made it as a team leader or supervisor because of his lack of English, and a mother that would sell tortillas and tamales so that her children could have the necessities, and a boy that was told in school that he would not amount to anything?

None other than the one who would say to me, “Mijo te ves purdy” (son, you look pretty).

Tito Hinojos is a Federal Way resident. Send comments to

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