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Personal Narratives





My name is Xochitl. I was born September 29, 2012 in Vallejo, CA. I am currently five months. My mother's name is Alexis Rodriguez and my father's name is Ricardo Mata. They both come from a Hispanic background. Though they both attained a High School diploma, neither of them finished college. I would like to make a difference in the world and become an example for my parents. My parents work hard to provide for me. Happiness is the only thing that is free and my parents are great at providing that for me. I wish to graduate from a university and have a career in which I enjoy and is not a “have too” type of job. I know that with my parents’ love and support I can become whatever I decide to be. | View Portraits





My name is Emerson. I was born in El Salvador in 1994. When my mother was pregnant with me, my father used to fight with her and sometimes hit her. One time my father hit her so badly that my mother fell when she was pregnant with me, then after that my father didn’t dare do anything else to hurt her. 

My mother used to have a restaurant. It was doing good. It was something that my mother likes to do and it was a way to get many of our family’s needs. One day in the night, my brother was in the restaurant and four men got out from a car and started shooting at my brother while he was with his friend. My brother didn’t make to the hospital because he was dead already when he got at the hospital.

This situation makes me changed in my studies. It inspired me to give all that I have in my studies, and to become a better person in my life.  | View Portraits




I am Lysanne, and I am 2 years old. I am an outgoing and curious child. I am also very friendly. I am not in school, but I know my mommy wants me in school. | View Portraits





Xochitl, she is my life. My role is to educate, provide and make my daughter happy. I am 21 years old and had my blessing at 20 when I was younger in my mother’s eyes education was always first. My background is Mexican and Salvadorian, two rural countries where education comes second because becoming a housewife was more important. I had dreams, goals and strength while attending school to make my mother feel orgullosa de su hija [proud of her daughter]. 

I feel till this day that I let down my mother by not accomplishing my dreams and goals. When I was 18, I moved out and my life became a challenge. Work! Work! Work! My hands then became obligated providers to survive. I gave school a break because making money was a necessity. I found out that my blessing was soon to become reality when I found out I was five months pregnant. I am now a strong mother, school is in my future, my daughter has first place in my heart and now Victoria is my priority. I would like to be an example for all those that once had dreams, had interference and kept strong to keep those dreams possible. My name is Alexis and I can make my daughter happy to become her role model. Si Se Puede. | View Portraits





When I was growing up in the mid-west in the early seventies I went to public school, as did many of my friends and neighbors. Private schooling was not heard of and catholic schools were attended only if a family wanted their children to have a religious education. Looking back, I feel fortunate my family lived in an area where the public schools were both affordable and sufficient, allowing me to acquire a college level education. Both my undergraduate and graduate education has helped broaden my understanding of people, societies, and environments so that I can see and engage more fully as a person of the world. I also appreciate my training as an artist, which has taught me to value craft, use my imagination as a way to envision new ideas, and take risks using unscripted options. These abilities have been a huge asset in so many ways.

When I was in college, we also learned that if we wanted to be successful we needed to be committed to our craft, work very hard in our studios, and prepare ourselves for a highly competitive career. This focus on individual success often created a perception of scarcity- only a few of us would succeed. With a perception of scarcity, one feels there are not enough resources to go around, so we often focus mainly on our individual pursuits. Fortunately, there is a paradigm shift occurring in the art world. Artists are moving from individual to group oriented work, designing and creating for and with a community.

Twenty-five years later, at the academic institution where I now teach, there is this amazing opportunity to facilitate and participate in the Inside Out Project. My hope for the community art piece is to herald this extremely important issue of educational equity, so that it enters the public conscious and creates public discourse. From this discourse we can identify our roles and responsibilities in forming a more healthy, robust, and equitable Marin County. For the participants, I hope this experience will generate hope, pride and a sense of possibility. | View Portraits





I am sixteen years old, and have lived in San Rafael for ten years where I am a sophomore at San Rafael High School. I was born in Peru. My parents left for the United States when I was young and I lived with my grandmother. When I was six, I left Peru to live with my parents.

My parents work hard, but in Marin County it is challenging for us to pay for a good education. When my parents divorced, this meant my mother had to raise me on her own. Getting extra support for homework at home was very difficult. I have learned to be independent and resourceful in order to achieve good grades and keep going. I feel that the educational system also can make it difficult for poor families to break the cycle of poverty.

I would like for there to be more money for public schools, so that there is more help for students who want to learn, more support for teachers to improve their teaching be better teachers. If there was better afterschool programs and support, then students can focus on their homework, increased academic programs which would inspire learning outside the classroom, and allow us to have fun and enjoy learning new things. This issue is important because it will tell that it's difficult to give a better life with education to our kids and future generations. One thing I can do to achieve my education goal is get help and staying focused to getting my school done first.| View Portraits





My name is Sabrina and I’m currently a student at Dominican University. I grew up in a home where my mom and dad eventually became divorced. Dealing with my family issues was difficult, but never interfered with my schoolwork. I knew I wanted to go to college at a very young age; anything less was unacceptable.

Now my undergraduate program at Dominican is coming to a close with graduation right around the corner. I am excited but also nervous because I am a student with several loans. I appreciate the opportunity that I’ve had here, but the fear of my debt is incredibly nerve racking. Private schools are expensive, but public schools are over flowing. If I could change anything within the education system for future generations, I’d like to see higher education more accessible. I’d like to see the kids that don’t come from families with high incomes to know that they are going to college no matter what it takes; to not fear debt and resort to just getting a mediocre job. | View Portraits





I am nineteen years old and was born in Walnut Creek, California. While growing up, my parents weren’t around, so my grandparents raised me. My parents didn’t have a college education, and after seeing my mother struggle, I became motivated to work hard and create a better life for myself and my two-year-old son. I attended an independent study high school, which was pretty relaxed and didn’t emphasize time management and deadlines. When I graduated, I went to Heald College in San Francisco. It was overwhelming because my time management skills weren’t up to par. I hope to graduate and I’m working hard to stay motivated so that I don’t fall behind. I hope that more educational equity will allow people to express themselves, discover who they are, and gain a better understanding of their futures. | View Portraits





Hello my name is Antonio. I am 2 years old. I go to Early Head Start 5 days a week for 8 hours a day. I play games, sing and dance, color, read, play outside on the bikes, sand and water. I love going to school and seeing all my friends and teachers. I will continue to go to school to grow and better myself in any way possible. | View Portraits





My name is Dulce Dharma, I’m sixteen years old and I born in Mexico City. In 2011, I came to the United States to get a better chance at education. In Mexico I didn’t really have the drive to keep going to school or really have a future. The reason was because no one in my family finished school. I never thought of going to college because no one in my family went to and for my last years on middle school I got in a lot of trouble at school that seemed to never end. I began to think of dropping-out and starting to work to support my family. 

But my life changed when my grandmother died and my mother came back from the United States. My mother decided that we would have a better opportunity if we went with her to the United States. Now I have been here for 2 ½ years and the doors have opened to me. I would like to go to college and make my whole family proud of me and I’m sure that I’m going to be the first generation to make it to college and have better opportunities. I look forward to finishing high school in the net two years and starting college, and get a job that I love. I want to do all those things to make my family proud, to make myself proud, and to accomplish what I thought I could never, and of course have a better life. | View Portraits





Fortunately I was raised in a community where having an education is important. While having an education is important in my community, obtaining an education comes at a high cost. I have supported myself through my educational experiences. 

Having been raised in a single parent family, my mother and my four other siblings have given me strong values and have helped me grow to become part of a community. My family is a strong supporter of my education. They have given me the structure that has enabled me to grow in my life.

What is awesome about the Inside Out project is that it is bringing awareness to the inequality of education in our community.  In Marin we live in one of the most educated communities, yet we have a section of our community that has been isolated from their chance to become part of the community.

In order to help our community to grow, we must give everyone a chance to become part of the society. By assuring that everyone has the opportunity and the experience of education, our community will have a better chance in the future. | View Portraits






I'm Elijah and I just recently started walking. I love to get into things and be at the park. I am one year old. I am happy and love to be held by everyone. I like to play patty-cake and love it when you sing to me. | View Portraits  




I am nineteen and a freshman at Dominican University. My journey to this point in my life has been a mix of ups and downs. In 2001, my mom passed from breast cancer. It was a struggle for my family emotionally as well as financially. The last months before my mom passed, my dad had to leave his job to take care of her as well as my brother and I. It was not until 2003 that he rejoined the work force, but this time instead of banking he went into teaching. I was fortunate enough to still be able to attend private school since his job was at the same school. I continued from that elementary school to a private high-school that challenged my creativity and intellectual process. Each of these schools led me to Dominican.

I have been able to attend nurturing schools throughout my educational career, but it has come at a cost. The private education both of my parents wanted for me has led them into some financial struggles that threaten my continuation in private schooling. My hope is that there will be quality education available to everyone, no matter their struggles. | View Portraits





I’m an 18 year old, young mom. I moved to Marin when I was 12. I’ve been kicked out of school more then once. In 2009, I entered Oracle Independent Studies. The one-on-one learning experience was a huge change but it worked for me! When I was 17, I became pregnant with my son who is now one year old. I knew then that I had to continue my education to provided a better life for my son, then I had had myself. I finished a year and a half of high school during my pregnancy and finished all my credits two weeks after my son was born! I graduated June 2012 with my three month old son by my side! | View Portraits





Hi! I’m one years old I go to early head start two days a week I learn songs colors shapes and new words!  I look forward to going to school in a few years and graduating from college one day! | View Portraits





I have always had access to education and it pains me to see children who don’t have the choices that I did. I went to an alternative private high school in the ‘70’s and had amazing experiences that made me feel I didn’t want to go to college unless I understood why I was there. I had the privilege to have the choice to go or not go and even feel that I could support myself without a college degree. I rejected my privilege and all that it stood for, but even this was a sign of my privilege. After a year of being out in the world and being confused, I did go to college for a year and then dropped because I couldn't see the connection between my A papers and understanding anything about my role in the world or who I wanted to be in it.

After I returned to college 20 years later and becoming passionate about social justice issues, I realized my experience in 1968 of school integration was pivotal for me, even though I was only a fifth grader. My liberal parents had no clue about the lives on “the other side of the tracks”, the African American neighborhood in South Berkeley where we white kids were bussed, an area that looked and felt like a war zone. We were not welcomed with open arms as my parents envisioned. We were the hated honkeys. This was the first time I saw myself as part of a group that stood for oppression and injustice and I understood why. I saw the differences between where I lived and the neighborhood where the school was. It was a hard truth about my nice life, but it is one that has driven me to be  braver than I actually am.  

It is wrong for children to suffer due to larger societal issues that they didn’t cause and have no control over. I notice that many youth have “bought” the idea that it is up to them alone whether or not they succeed. They say they need to be motivated, do their work, stay in school, not get in trouble. It is all their responsibility. This just isn’t true. We are all responsible. No child should bear the brunt of injustices and societal blindness. Truths can be painful, but if we refuse to see painful realities then we certainly can’t address them. I love this project because it is about seeing the actual faces of the education gap in this county. How can we turn away?  | View Portraits

After I returned to college 20, Ischoolfor,.drivenI. 


Alejandra, Dominican alum'12, Project Photographer

Education has been transferred from one generation to the next for many decades now. Whether through teaching, training, research or simply learning on your own, education is vital to every individual. It is an experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels or acts. I am part of the educational growth. | View Portraits





My name is Brihanna Gaines. I am four years old and I am currently at the Marin Head Start, where I go four days a week. What I like about it is: I love to sing and I love to draw gingerbread men with chalk on the playground. | View Portraits




Eneida Sachez

My name is Eneida. I come from a Mexican background. Both of my parents are fully Mexican. My parents’ long working hours and lectures about life give me the motivation, willingness and desire to be successful and go to college. My parents don’t have the time to contribute to my education as much as I would want to because they work a lot. I am willing to start putting goals on myself and start looking for scholarships in order to achieve my education goals. | View Portraits





I am twenty years old and grew up in Los Altos, California. The schools I attended in elementary and middle school had very good test scores, but did not have a lot of diversity. When I came to high school and college, I made an effort to experience and meet people with different cultural backgrounds.  I was grateful to have grown up in a well-off area with good schools, even though my family is middle class.

When it comes to education, my grandpa is my main motivation to succeed.  He worked from a young age during the Great Depression and was eventually able to get a full ride to Harvard.  He is living proof that hard work pays off.  Now that I’m in college, I believe that everyone should have the same educational opportunities, despite where they come from. Currently, graduating from Dominican is my main focus, but it frustrates me that there are so many people out there who are unable to achieve their educational goals. I hope that this project brings awareness to the educational inequities that surround us in Marin County, and all over the world. | View Portraits





I support education and am dismayed at how we, as a society, say we value it and yet we don’t help sustain it in a fair and just manner. More and more education seems to be about privilege and not available to all. I also believe that we are sacrificing a huge part of our population by expecting everyone to be successful and share the same goals in education. We really need to institute skill building Trade Schools, and create engaging employment programs to guide young people into a workforce that wants them. We need people be thriving because of their education, not compromised by the education they have received.

I have been stopped time and time again by the cost of an education. I have always found my own way to get what I need for a BA, but not to afford higher education for a Masters. I have never made enough money to put myself in debt like that, and don’t trust the economy and greater system enough to take such a risk. I imagine my daughter getting more from her education then I did. I see her being less restrained by the challenges of a system that is failing so many, and soaring towards a life that sustains her. We are both aware of her privilege.

Working with young people who have been failed by the education system and seeing how poverty has such a huge impact on success, has taught me a great deal about the human predicament. I am touched, that so many of these young people still strive and dream of more for themselves and how they want to change the tide and create possibilities for their children. They are feeling and living with the shortcomings of a challenged education. They want more for their children as young parents. They want more for the world’s children. They want to be a part of the change that happens, here. | View Portraits





I was always at the top of my class and my family, here and in Mexico, was so proud of me. High school graduation was the best, knowing I was going to go to college in the fall, and get a great education for my future was so exciting. 

Little did I know that college was going to be so expensive. Being an immigrant made things so much more stressful, even in a community college. There were so many fees that I could not afford and that was very discouraging but I managed to stay in class for the fall and spring semesters. 

Working full time and living on my own was very overwhelming but that’s what I wanted. I was a “grown up” now. It got too overwhelming and I thought I should take a break for the next semesters. I found out I was pregnant in the spring and I was already far along. I could see her waving to us [in the sonogram] and at that moment I knew that I loved her and was going to care for her and do everything that I can to make her life a little easier than mine was. Therefore school, of course, is at the top of my list. Going back to finish what I started is my goal: to get a career that will provide for my family and not struggle. Life gives us obstacles but they are just obstacles––the finish line is still there, for me to finish.  | View Portraits 





I am worried about not having financial access to school. While I was living in Guatemala, I realized that it is hard to pay bills with a low income. I realized that an education will give me more opportunities, giving me the chance to got college will give me the chance to have a better life.

Having been raised in a broken family I was unsure about what the meaning of family is. Having been raised by my grandfather, who toke me in, I feel that I have strong set of morals and a sense of direction. With my cultural and spiritual background, I feel that I have been guided to have a better life. I am very grateful to have a grandfather in his life that has given me a sense of virtue.

I believe that, in life, it is beautiful that a single parent is strong enough, and have the ability to work in order give their children’s future a better chance. I hopes that all single parents know that raising their children the best that they can, will give our society a better chance. | View Portraits





My name Izabella, but everyone calls me Bella. I’m a year and a half. I have a lot of wonderful qualities but one of them is I’m bilingual. My grandparents and my mom speak to me in Spanish because they know life will be a little easier if I know more then one language. I know I’ll do great in school and look forward to learning everything from different shapes and writing my name to statistics and algebra like my mom did. Then finishing college and getting a job that I love thanks to my education. | View Portraits





I am an 18-year-old college student at Dominican University of California. My schooling has taken place in many different cities, from Corte Madera, to Marin City, San Rafael, and Sonoma. Everyone had different attitudes toward school depending on where I was. For many people I met, school wasn’t the most important thing in their lives. I don’t think that schools are great at accommodating those that have other things going on in their lives. But I think that graduation should be a goal for everyone, because it allows for people to set more diverse goals for themselves. There should be more resources for students to study as a group, so students motivate each other and work as a team. | View Portraits





I am young mother of 3, just trying to get by. All of my focus is on my kids and their wellbeing. I was 5 out of 6 in my household. Growing up, my mother went to night school, and with no other choice, was forced to take all of us to class. Late nights coming home and early mornings going to class made me resent school early on.

I was someone who was “falling through the cracks” in high school. I had no motivation. With a lack of drive, I hardly thought about what I wanted to do with my life.

Once I started falling behind in school, I thought, “Why bother going at all?” Yet, after being forced into continuation school, I began to really push myself to succeed. I didn’t want to graduate from continuation school and with a newfound motivation, I was transferred to Terra Linda High where I received my diploma, an endeavor I didn’t think would happen.

My mother was a single mom struggling to balance 6 kids and night school. My experience made me believe that struggling is just a part of life. Asking for help is a problem I have. I’m struggling to get where I want to be and doing the best that I can.

Now is my opportunity to make life changes that will better my kids and myself. I would love to go to college but with limited financial aid and 3 kids to put in daycare, my hopes to gaining a higher education seem to be futile. I would like to see more accessible child care in school. With this, I believe my opportunity for higher education would be manageable and within my reach. | View Portraits





I love to pass on the information that I learn to other people. I believe that everyone should have the right to a free education everywhere in the world. Everyone should be able to have a chance to be successful no matter their financial class. It saddens me that not every child is offered an education. I wish I was able to help more kids receive an education, and I will take every opportunity that comes to me to do so.

I am a 14 year old freshman in High School. I think that my education has been exceptional comparing it to many of the children in the world that can’t even buy a simple pencil. I definitely think that I am pushed to use my abilities to the fullest. I know that the education could be much better but personally, I am satisfied. We are lucky enough to have great teachers and great resources and supplies to use.

Helping out YMM and hearing all of the mother’s stories I have seen a different side to things. Some have had to drop out of school and give up their dreams and goals to care for their child/children. I could never imagine having to make such a hard decision. They are such brave girls that need all the education and support that they can get. My family and I have also had relationships with schools in Mexico that are so poor some kids can’t even afford a pair of shoes which is required to go to school. My awareness of people that are so impacted by poverty that they can’t even get a simple education, it has given me so many different perspectives. It really makes me value and cherish the education that I am able to receive.

A topic that they don’t talk about at schools is media and how it is affecting all of the kids lives. Every girl and every guy is self conscious about themselves in one way or another and it is because we are taught to think that a perfect person is skinny, blonde, flawless skin, etc. but in reality, very few people have bodies that can accommodate those expectations. I think that it would be important to talk more about this because it is extremely prevalent in our society. People are comparing themselves and judging themselves to look the way that they believe they should look. Honestly, every girl and every guy is beautiful. In different ways, but everyone has qualities and characteristics that make them stand out from everyone else and they deserve to be recognized and feel good about the way that they look.

I would not have known that so many people are going through such hardships if I wasn’t involved in YMM. I believe that it is important to raise awareness. Education would have had a big impact on the teen mothers lives. The more people that know about the injustices regarding education, the more people will want to help. Everyone deserves an education like mine.

After High School, I am planning to go onto college after possible taking a gap year. This may be challenging because my family is not in a financial place where we can pay for the college fees. I would have to rely mostly on scholarships with hopefully some help from my family. Especially because the entrance rates are growing more expensive each year. | View Portraits



My life in the context of the world. Transforming the world with the context of my life.                                                                                       

How does or did your education impact you in positive ways (positive experiences, what you hope to achieve for yourself, your parents, children etc.) and/or negative ways (how have you been served by schools, the educational system, what barriers have you encountered or fear you will encounter)? Why is the issue of educational equity important to you? To share your story click here.