Occupy Wall Street has inspired me to reflect on my own personal struggle with trying to achieve the “American Dream” through education. As one of the 99% , I’ll share my story as well.  I am a first generation American living in the United States who growing up struggled in poverty, attended public schools filled with unequipped substitute teachers, and had statistics thrown in my face proclaiming, “You will not make it.”  Of course this is not the norm for all first generation families but this was the case for my single parent household.

I remember reading an article on Puerto Ricans in America during my 12th grade term and the key sentence that ever lasted in my memory was “Education is the key towards upward mobility”.  After analyzing my current state at the time, I realized the only way to do something about my life was to change who I was: Educated myself and Expose myself to what life had to offer.  I packed my bags and told my mother “Mami, I am going to get a real education” she looked at me puzzled with bills in her hands and told me “With what money?” “Financial Aid Mami! I can go to school and give us all a better life thanks to Student Loans.”

Higher education was once a golden ticket to a higher socioeconomic class. With tuition on a constant rise, more and more students are taking out student loans to not only pay for their education but also room and board.  Most students don’t put their debt ratio in perspective until they graduate and realize they are starting the race of life 100 yards behind the starting point.   Some find education more as an albatross than a way towards upward mobility.  The burden of student loans can be a nightmare, far from the American Dream that once guided a student to pursue a degree.

As I continue my journey I know “Education is key” academically and financially.  Looking at the below statistics of young educated Americans are alarming but I know I have to focus my efforts to continue to rise above.