Ancestors inspire pursuit of the American Dream

By Chantal Carrancho

For the Mirror

What I love about working in higher education in South King County is that every day I meet students whose stories are similar to that of my own family.

The stories of my family — my great grandfather traveling on a large boat, my grandpa who left his family behind and my dad walking to work in the cold snow — have given me the power and strength to uplift my own dreams and especially to motivate others to do the same.

The stories of my family all share a common theme: Pursuing the American Dream. This is embedded in the minds of most immigrants, especially my family who emigrated from the Philippines. My parents gave me a life of equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination and initiative.

It all began when a large boat from Molokai, Hawaii, arrived in the beautiful islands of the Philippines to recruit sugar plantation workers. One of them, my great-grandfather Andres Laguesma, then decades later, my grandfather Aurelio Carrancho, left their families behind to head toward their American Dream. My grandfather later earned enough money to bring the rest of his family to Hawaii. My great-grandfather Aniceto traveled to Butte, Montana, to work in the mining industry, but was later killed by accidentally stepping on a land mine. I often think about their journeys and what they have encountered, which gave me the strength to purse my dreams.

My father was a history book. He wanted us to learn our roots and history and to be proud of all the hard work my great-grandfather and grandpa accomplished. I recall a memorable story of my late father who shared an experience when he first came to America. My dad began work at the Veterans Medical Center in Seattle, which was about 6 miles away from our home. On a cold snowy morning with icy roads in Seattle, my dad decided to walk 6 miles to work and 6 miles back home because he just started his new job.

When I reminisce about the journeys of what my family encountered, one word comes to mind: Sacrifice. Their sacrifice meant leaving their families behind or even working in a dangerous industry just to get toward that dream. Their stories created an inspiring fuel in me to earn an education and to pursue my dreams.

My parents dreamed of a bright future for their children and promised to give us a good education. Deep down, my parents wanted me to pursue a career in nursing, but were so proud of any occupation that I would decide to pursue. Although my calling was not a nurse, I wanted to show them that their dream could come true. Later, I was accepted to the University of Washington and my parents’ smiles were so big that I had to graduate with a degree.

The challenges my parents experienced gave me the power to feed my soul into the books during the sleepless nights at the Odegaard Library. I changed my major five times, but one specific experience helped me decide my major. I experienced a “stereotypical” situation during an interaction with my old supervisor. She told me the reason I was accepted to the UW was because I was Asian, not because of my high GPA or extracurricular activities. That moment created a spark for me, and I decided to invest my time into learning about diversity, social justice and equity issues in the American Ethnic Studies major.

My passion and strength grew until I finally walked into Husky Stadium for commencement. The best moment was when I found my dad in the audience wiping his happy tears while I received my diploma.

I discovered my passion for higher education when I first landed my first professional job at the UW, but it was not easy.

Coming in as a new professional, I noticed that I had a lot of growing up to do, and I wanted to learn and become better. However, certain situations knocked me back down.

One day, my supervisor brought me to her office and asked me to read aloud a sentence to her. That feeling of “I am not good enough” and “my parents will be disappointed” ran through my mind. That moment pushed me so hard into realizing that my passion was to inspire others to help shape and mold them into future leaders, not to bring them down.

Later, I chose to continue my education and received my master of arts in higher education. I’ve learned that each struggle pushes you to do better, and each situation molded me into the person I am today.

The stories I carry with me each day of my ancestors’ struggles keep me going to reach my dreams. It is hard, but perseverance and dedication will help you accomplish it.

Chantal Carrancho manages the Career and Student Employment (CASE) Center at Highline College. The CASE Center is available to help students, alumni and community members with career exploration, job search, campus employment, resume writing and career events. Chantal received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington in American Ethnic Studies and a master’s of education from Argosy University. She dedicates this article to her late father, Elmer L. Carrancho.