Aug 04, 2015


Diary of an Ivy League Mom™ – Move In Day at Harvard

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In 1985, I began my college years at Columbia University, and had the best four years of my life.  The oldest daughter of Dominican immigrant parents, I learned on my own how to navigate and conquer the college admissions process. It was not easy then, and it certainly isn’t easier today.  In fact, gaining admissions to Ivy League schools and top tier colleges today is more competitive and complicated than ever.  I know because we just went through the college admissions process with our oldest daughter, and she’s now at Harvard College.  In this column, I share my journey as a mother of four kids who strongly believes in higher education and raising kids who are intellectually curious, talented and mindful.  You may think I’m a bit obsessed with education, but one thing I know for sure is that education can change lives, communities and the world.

August 28, 2012

Last Sunday, my husband and I brought our daughter’s final stuff for her move to college. She had been there already for a week, participating in the First-Year Harvard Urban Program, before starting school. It was very late at night. We were waiting outside her dorm, full of boxes, lamps, including our 3 other kids, and stroller!

It was almost midnight, and the program was not done yet. But, while waiting there, I noticed a Latino gentleman patiently waiting around there too. He came up and introduced himself, before I had a chance to introduce myself to him. I congratulated him for his daughter’s acceptance to Harvard. He said “Felicidades a usted, tambien…” and we began to talk.

Elizabeth Garcia, Harvard Class of 2016

Photo: Bradenton Herald

It turns out Mr. Garcia is a Guatemalan immigrant who lives in Florida with his 4 children and wife. They drove 28 hours to bring their daughter to Harvard — the first student in the entire school district who ever got accepted to Harvard.  He has raised his family (all 6 of them) on a $25,000 salary per year, as a landscaper.  His daughter, Elizabeth, got accepted to Harvard on a full scholarship.  She was also accepted at Stanford, Duke, Cornell, and other top tier schools. His oldest son, was also accepted to Cornell University last year.  A great achievement for any family, especially for Mr. Garcia, who only had the opportunity to achieve a second grade level of education in his country.

Mr. Garcia and his family had spent the week in Boston, waiting for the program to end, so they can bring the rest of Elizabeth’s move to her dorm.  I asked Mr. Garcia how they had spent the week, and he answered “We went on some college tours: Brown, Upenn…and other Ivy League Schools…”  I then went online and found this great article on this amazing family.
All I can say is this:  parents have more power than they can ever imagine.  And, men and fathers, in particular, need to step up like Mr. Garcia, and make education the single most important priority.  Meeting this family made my heart dance…!
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Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Dr. Perez-Litwin is the Founder & CEO of ELLA Leadership Institute, a multi-platform professional development organization designed to advance the careers and leadership of women. She's the creative force behind the LATINAS THINK BIG™ national tour, sponsored and live-streamed by Google.

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  1. I just so love this story. Have read or met so many wonderful Latino families who have worked hard and are sending their kids to college on scholarships. They’ll be the first college graduates in their families. Thank you so much for sharing!

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