Women's Studies 30

I have lived in a poor latino community in New Jersey for as long as I can remember. From my experience, the cultural and monetary pressures of an urban environment can be detrimental to the academic and professional success of young women. As a child, scarce finances limited my access to technological tools, and much of my family dissuaded me from pursuing a career. It is surprising to me, even now, that I attend one of the most prestigious colleges in the nation. Many of the female friends I studied with in high school never considered higher education as an option. They have instead decided to start families, supporting themselves on federal welfare programs or on the meager salaries of low skill jobs.

My own mother lived her young life in a similar manner, raising a child single handedly. The difference between her and the majority of the lower class women I have been exposed to is that my mother pursued higher education. She was, and remains, my main source of inspiration. My mother understands me, never discouraging me from delving into the male world of athletics and, most importantly, science. She encouraged me to follow in her footsteps in graduating from college, and provided me with technical resources to aid my studies whenever possible.

Her struggle to juggle a family, career, and education yielded in two main problems. Money was always an sensitive issue, as the salaries from various clerical positions, did not provide for hi-tech luxuries. However, as an adept practical economist, she cut corners and searched for bargains to alleviate the situation. Such financial problems paled in comparison to the more severe familial ones.

I spent many of my formative years with my grandmother as my mother attended college. My old-fashioned Puerto Rican grandmother adamantly believed that women should be not be encouraged to participate in the advancements in science and technology. Regardless, I often expressed my interest in biology and the medical sciences. She did not look upon these views positively, and with her good intentions tried to mold me into the perfect latina. My grandmother ingrained gender stereotypes in me from the start by spending hours either in the kitchen learning how to cook the perfect pot of arroz con pollo or adjusting the hem on my uncle¹s trousers. The mixed traditional views of my grandmother and the more feminist views of my mother set confusion in my young mind. Over the years, however, my thirst for knowledge and love of the sciences prevailed.

And so, early on, science became an influential factor in my life. When I entered Swarthmore, I was a pre-med, biology major. I have since changed gears dramatically declaring myself an studio art major with an education concentration. Unfortunately, I have received as much criticism from women in the sciences, who ask me why I waste my time on a ³fluffy² subject like art, as I do from those who are traditionally-minded. I am now in a field I love, rather than one I entered to prove that I too could succeed in, being a woman. Although I do not aspire to become a scientist, I maintain an interest in science, and am by no means a technophobe.

Natasha Vicenta Rosado

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last updated 9/15/98