More high-school, college students taking gap years

By SIERRA SIZEMORE

Peter Georgiou and Cameron Bohl, also known as The Van Boys, decided a gap year was their best option before taking the plunge into real-world responsibilities.

Georgiou, sophomore in mechanical engineering at Kansas State University, and Bohl, 2018 high-school graduate, had been planning their journey for more than three years. In late September, as their classmates were preparing for mid-terms, the two set out on their mission to reach 49 of the 50 United States. More than two months later, The Van Boys have been to and through 10 states and counting. The interior of their fully reconstructed Ford Cobra is complete with a full-size mattress, overhead storage, and mood lighting. The van in total cost around $6,500, but is a small price to pay for a fully custom mobile home.

 

 

Bohl graduated from Olathe North High School in Kansas in May 2018, however, he had known since his sophomore year that he wanted to take a gap year after graduation.

“I had been swimming competitively for about 13 years,” Bohl said.  “I’d always told myself I was gonna go to college, study law and swim on a scholarship. Early into my sophomore year I realized that I truly didn’t enjoy the sport anymore.”

Studies show that an estimated 20 to 50 percent of students enter college with doubts about their career paths. Bohl is among the average 35 percent of students who are unsure of what they want to do in their work life. The same study also shows that nearly 75 percent of college students change their major at least once before graduation.

“I also realized that I only wanted to be a lawyer for the money,” Bohl said. “I didn’t actually care about being a lawyer. In fact, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. So I didn’t want to go straight to school, waste all this money and waste all of this time getting a degree I didn’t necessarily want.”

Bohl says he’s always had an alternative outlook on higher education. While he doesn’t plan on ever making it to college, Georgiou has a different idea. He plans to complete his studies after the year-long journey, but it does come with concerns.

“My concerns about going back to school will be finding the motivation to do school work I don’t want to do,” Georgiou said. “And keeping my life interesting in Kansas.”

The majority of students who take a gap year come back to school more motivated and eager to complete their studies, but this may not be the case for all. One of the main reasons students take gap years are to find and define themselves and some find that a college education is totally unnecessary.

“We’ve met lots of people that are doing just fine without a college education,” Georgiou said. “[This time off] also made it apparent that life isn’t about getting a job that makes a lot of money. Quality of life isn’t dependent on an education.”

While experts don’t always encourage students to take gap years, it is apparent that they often find fulfillment during their downtime. When asked about money, The Van Boys were eager to clarify. Bohl and Georgiou said they started saving their summer paychecks as soon as their plan was set into motion. 

 “I’m willing to spend every last dime to my name to make this trip more fulfilling,” Georgiou said. “I think everyone should take the time to do what they want. Even for a short time it’s still worth it.”

Georgiou and Bohl say their families and friends were supportive of their idea despite the initial hesitations from one side of the party. Bohl’s parents were excited about the idea, however, Georgiou’s were a little more hesitant. He said he explained the experiences and the people he would meet along the way and they quickly climbed on board. Despite their initial hesitation regarding, the pat on the back was a motivating factor.

“My parents asked me one day at dinner what I wanted to do after high school and I told them nervously that I wanted to travel,” Bohl said. “My dad said “that’s badass,” my mom says she supports whatever I decide to do. So that was the moment I knew that I wanted to travel and explore.”

The idea of a gap year is growing more popular as a survey conducted by Hostelworld Group shows that 26 percent of respondents had taken one. More than 50 percent of respondents between 18 and 30 who had not previously taken a gap year, said they would consider doing so at some point before or after college.

High-school and college students are more often considering the possibility of taking a gap year. The trend began in India in the 1970s and later spread to Australia, Britain, and is now becoming mainstream in the United States.

The most common motivating factor that leads a student to a gap year is the desire to find themselves or take the time to figure out exactly what they want out of life. Some of the most successful people in the world took gap years, as well. Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling, and Mike Zuckerberg all benefited from taking a break before or during college.

There is a long-standing argument between high-school students and universities about the responsibility that is inflicted on the teenagers as they transition into college. Incoming college freshmen are expected to make decisions on the basis of their future at 18 years old and students often feel pressure from both the university and their parents to choose a path of study that will be most financially beneficial.

Millennials are breaking the barriers previous generations have built and some are overlooking monetary success in their career paths. Rather than achieving a degree that will make the most money, they are working toward things that truly make them happy, increasing their quality of life.

The gap year trend is becoming more popular in the United States because of the systemic ideal that requires students to sit in a classroom for 8 hours per day in high-school. Teenagers become restless and often resent the school system as a whole, sometimes leading students to a gap year.

As for high-school students or incoming college freshmen, there are concerns of decreased chances of admission acceptance, however, most times it is proven to be opposite. Admissions councils are all but encouraging students to take gap years.

Jeffrey Blahnik, Executive Director of admissions at the University of Oklahoma, says the stigma around students who opt for gap years in previous years is quickly evaporating.

“If a student lets us know that they plan to take a gap year,” Blahnik said, “We encourage them to apply and then provide the explanation and we will actually defer their admission for a year.”

The American Gap Association reports that 75 percent of students who take gap years feel that their experiences during their time off increased their skill levels, and gap year students return to school at a rate of 90 percent.

“Students who take advantage of a gap year have the added life experience of work or travel which often makes them more prepared and ready for college,” Blahnik said.

Admissions boards are optimistic about students who take gap years due to the maturity and greater sense of self they possess. Students who are admitted to college after taking a gap year are statistically proven to have a 0.1 to 0.4 point higher GPA than that of their counterparts, according to a study conducted by Robert Cladgett, former dean of Middlebury College.

The pros of taking a gap year far outweigh the cons because, at the end of the day, school and homework and jobs will always be an option. For young adults, gap years promote pushing limits and leaving their comfort zones. The ways in which everyone does these things are different, however, the pursuit of happiness is an opportunity given to all Americans.

As Cameron Bohl said, “happiness is success; success is not monetary.”

 

The Van Boys:

Instagram: @thevanboyz

Twitter: @thevanboys

YouTube: The Van Boys

College dropout to dream job

By Sierra Sizemore

Chemical imbalances are to blame for mental health disorders and play a role in the lives of many Americans.

In a private study conducted through a Facebook poll, 88 of the 100 voters admitted to either dealing with mental health disorders personally or knowing someone who had. Olivia Lockwood has an unexpected story in regards to the paralyzing effects of depression.

Lockwood has dealt with a rollercoaster of emotions. From college dropout to a cross-country move, to landing her dream job.

“Dropping out of college is probably the best thing I’ve ever done for myself,” Lockwood said.

Lockwood is one of more than 300 million people in the world who suffer from the often debilitating mental illness. Even as a young child she fought against negative thoughts. From the time Lockwood was 5, she had been trying to meet the impossible expectations of peers and family.

“My whole life I’ve had some kind of depression issue,” Lockwood said. “I remember when I used to horseback ride and before a show I would always tell myself that I was gonna lose, that I was gonna do bad, you know all this negative stuff about myself. So then I’d prepared myself for the worst and the outcome was always better than what I’d prepared myself for. It was a lot of mental games even as a kid. I mean, I was probably 5 or 6 when I did that to myself.”

A 5-year-old performing reverse psychology on herself is not only brilliant, but almost tragic. She was so used to disappointment that she felt it necessary to set herself up for success with low expectations; the opposite of her peers and family.

She tells of times kids would make fun of her appearance in middle school and the aftermath of her mental health when she stepped off the bus to walk home. This made the decision to move with her mother to Oklahoma following her parents’ divorce.

She left Poughquag, New York in September of 2013 and drove to Oklahoma to start fresh. A new life away from the torment and misery.

Lockwood started school at Madison Middle School in Bartlesville and was immediately adopted by a group of friends. They ‘took her under their wings’, so to speak, and they helped her adjust to her new routine. Jasmine Tate, a former classmate and longtime friend, paints a picture of her friendship with Lockwood.

“She’s always been very bubbly and people liked her pretty well, I think,” Tate said. “She’s had some things happen with other girls at BHS (Bartlesville High School) where they would make fun of her nose or call her names. She just gave it right back to them, but I think that was kind of the stepping stone for all the issues she has now.”

The kind of taunting she endured in her hometown did not end once she crossed the state lines. Bullying is a prominent issue among 12 to 18-year-olds in the U.S. The ways kids connect to their peers during their school years is important to the development of healthy coping mechanisms later in life.

“To be honest, I don’t think she has found a coping method that will work for her,” Tate said. “She just holds it all in until she explodes. I’ll have seen her the day before and the next day she’ll be at my doorstep bawling.”

What is taught or learned before high-school graduation is imperative to the problem-solving skills of a highly functioning adult. Lockwood has developed these skills slower than others, but she has always been determined to find her way out of the dark.

In August preceding her high-school graduation, she moved to Edmond to attend the University of Central Oklahoma. It was seemingly another escape route in which she did not find her peace. More often than not, she was found in her room sleeping or avoiding the stresses that come with the pursuit of higher education. After some consideration and more emotional distress, she decided to transfer to the University of Oklahoma.

Lockwood went to OU with the intention of pursuing a career in marketing only to conclude that she didn’t know what she wanted to do in the future. After a lot of questionable days and changing her major multiple times, she dropped out of college entirely.

“I was already miserable,” Lockwood said. “But I didn’t want to pay for college with no guarantee that I would even pass my classes and because I didn’t know for sure what I wanted to do, you know?”

She moved back to Bartlesville and took the next year to focus on her mental health. She expected a year of free rent and virtually no stress to be healing, but unfortunately, she wasn’t able to escape the turmoil.

Destructive thoughts enveloped her psyche and she couldn’t get past the idea that she was a disappointment to everyone she loved. Her parents encouraged her to go back to school or to work more or to go out with friends more. All these things seem normal from a caring parent, however, someone with an already delicate mental state is more vulnerable than someone who has not suffered from a mental health disorder.

Lockwood hadn’t been connected with her father or two brothers since the time she moved to Oklahoma when she was 13. For more than 7 years, she was all but estranged from her immediate family. This factor had a monumental effect on her emotional well-being.

Self-inflicted disappointment and emotional anguish led to yet another impulse escape plan. One week she was talking to her friends and family about wanting to move back to New York, the next she was packed and ready to go.

Lockwood made the 21 hour drive to upstate New York. She was reconnecting with family and rekindled relationships that were seemingly broken beyond repair. Without school work or bills to pay, she no longer struggled with stress. She began to create an idea of herself that she was more worthy and recognized her love for travel.

In the same year she dropped out of college, she discovered her dream job. Job applications and dream boards on Pinterest inspired a motivation she hadn’t seen in herself before. She was excited about her future.

After a few interviews, she was invited to training as a flight attendant for a major airline. Three weeks of unpaid training, studying and sleepless nights, she graduated flight attendant school and was offered a full-time position with the job of her dreams.

Airline employees and those in the aviation field struggle with mental health stigmas. For those who struggle with mental health, it is more difficult to become a pilot, however, as a flight attendant, the requirements are less strenuous. Ironically enough, flight attendants experience more loneliness and social disconnect than the average person due to their unstable routines.

“I love this job,” Lockwood said. “It’s a lot of fun and I’ve gotten to go to a lot of cool places, but it’s hard work, so I don’t see myself doing it forever. I guess I’ll just figure it out as I go.”

In less than eight years, Lockwood found misery, disappointment and trauma. In the same time, she forged a path for healing and is learning to cope with her unwelcome thoughts. She made memories and gained friends who love her dearly despite all the things she once decided made her worthless.

She revealed a strength in herself everyone else underestimated and through that was able to snag a job in a field that allows her to travel and do what she loves most. She is now living happily in Orlando, FL with new friends and a multitude of opportunities. She has gotten to travel to more than 10 states since she started her routine as a flight attendant and will hopefully continue to find the light at the end of her tunnel.

Lockwood isn’t a perfect picture of success and she still battles her demons like anyone else, but, if anything, her story fits the classic “it gets better” narrative.

 

 

 

 

Mental health disorders, whether it is depression, anxiety, PTSD, or any other kind of chemical imbalances, affect more than 300 million people worldwide. If you or anyone you know is struggling with harmful thoughts, please get help from a medical professional. Call 1-800-273-8255 anytime, day or night.

One thing to take away from this story is that it gets better. As Dolly Parton said, “If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”

 

Story Behind the Story: Torey Van Oot

By Sierra Sizemore

Torey Van Oot is a free-lance writer, reporter and editor out of Minneapolis, Minnesota with bylines in Refinery 29, Teen Vogue and Glamour Magazine. Before a career path change to free-lance reporting, Van Oot was a contracted writer for Refinery 29 in Brooklyn, New York. She has appeared on CNN in regards to a political sex scandal and received a Center for California Studies award for best political blogging.

As a free-lance reporter, she often receives tips and assignments from editors looking for an outside voice to produce a story.  Van Oot produces her own stories and ideas, however, her article “For Women in Congress, the State of the Union is a #MeToo Moment” was brought to her by an editor at Glamour Magazine. According to Van Oot, it’s important for journalists to break news, enhance a story or figure out a unique angle. The State of the Union piece specifically falls under the last category in that she was working to find a voice or opinion that was not as prominent.

“For me, it’s about finding a story that no one else has or that’s going to be different,” Van Oot said. “I look for unexplored angles or compelling characters. I look at narrative arcs to see how much access I may have to the people or things I need to write about in a compelling and interesting way.”

The article revolves around the challenges women face as full-time members of the United States Congress in American society. The expose specifically discusses sexual harassment claims and those female legislators affected by the acts in question. Van Oot reached out to many congresswomen, both Democratic and Republican, however, the Republican representatives were unwilling or unable to give quotes for this piece.

“I really wanted to include the voices of Republican women,” Van Oot said. “My assumption is that they would’ve said, had they participated in this story, is ‘This is a symbolic gesture (referencing the all-black dress-code at the State of the Union) and we’re going to do other things to address this issue.’”

Van Oot discussed the ways journalists can give justice to victims in the future. As reporters, it is important to listen to the primary voices, but also to look outside the box and truly give an outlet to all parties involved.

“There’s a level of kindness, compassion and thoughtfulness that should always come with our reporting when talking to people who have gone through traumatic experiences,” Van Oot said. “I do think it’s really important to be mindful when talking to people and to be understanding of what people are going through when they are sharing such traumatic stories with you. Part of doing that justice is being upfront and honest with them about what you’re going to need to do as part of the reporting.”

Van Oot brought up the point to ask survivors about their next line of action and to make sure they have a support system to fall back on. When reporters tell a sensitive story, it is important to assure that the sources or subjects of the story are not negatively affected by the story that is being told. Journalist’s jobs are to give voice to the voiceless, however, they are required to follow the voices who want to be heard and will contribute considerably to the article in progress.

The article written for Glamour Magazine, mentioned in earlier graphs, was not predominantly controversial. Though it was shared multiple times on Twitter, the piece did not receive any kind of negative feedback from its intended audience.

Oklahoma prodigy making waves in the Big Apple

By Sierra Sizemore

Associated with Gloria Tso is a level of success and accomplishment that is nearly unmatched by her hometown peers.

She possesses a determination to make a life better for herself and those around her, not only in her immediate surroundings, but those all over the world. With a path and a plan set in motion, Tso fights toward equality and is passionate about social justice issues in our American society.

Tso is studying at the prestigious Columbia University in New York City and is set to graduate with bachelor’s degrees in both American studies and East Asian languages and cultures. Her route to higher education was preceded by not one, but two internships at the White House during the Obama administration. Tso speaks very highly of the former president and beams with pride when asked about her experiences.

“ I always joke that I peaked in high school because the two times I had the honor of meeting President Obama – once for the U.S. Senate Youth Program and once for Girls Nation – are still among the most impactful, most exciting, most overwhelming moments of my life,” Tso said.

Tso has had bylines in Business Insider and ABC News and has drafted, edited and fact-checked scripts for Good Morning America and CNN. Her accomplishments are vast, however, her proudest moments stem from helping others and not necessarily from achieving a new title or promotion.

“I realize some of my proudest accomplishments have been much smaller things and have stemmed from what one might consider losses,” Tso said.  “I am proud of the times when I have pulled myself away from my laptop or my books during a stressful mid-terms season to go take care of a friend, even if I ended up losing some sleep or getting a mediocre grade. I am proud when I make the most out of a bad day. I am proud of the times I practiced self-care even after receiving those grades or maybe a rejection letter from an internship I applied for…and I am most proud of myself for the times I was able to be there for others in some capacity, whether that was reaching out to someone I’ve never met before or helping out someone I mentor.”

Gloria’s hometown peers saw her development and progression through the years. Students, millennials and above all, citizens, like Gloria Tso are potentially paving the path for change. Mitsuye Conover, Bartlesville High School AP Social Studies teacher, had a special connection with Tso.

“I knew since the moment I met her that she was different,” Conover said. “In my estimation, Gloria was more mature than most of her classmates. She had goals very early on. She knew what she wanted to accomplish and created a plan of what she had to do to set her plan into motion. With early success, she was able to modify and add to her plans as opportunities arose.”

Gloria Tso has had a lasting impact on everyone she has touched through her life. She actively takes time out of her day to help those in need and makes a point to reach out to her peers and the underserved. For instance, she volunteers weekly at the Double Discovery Center at Columbia University where she helps underprivileged youths apply for colleges. She is a part of the Columbia mentoring initiative through the International Student Family Tree, in which she helps international students assimilate to the university.

One of her current projects is with the Columbia University Life Events Council, where she serves as co-chair of inclusion and belonging on campus. The council is planning a drag themed karaoke event, which is set to be co-hosted by the Queer Awareness Month planning committee.

Tso is the marketing coordinator, or “campus ambassador”, for a company called Rent The Runway. RTR caters to women’s fashion and is a more affordable way to strut in designer fashion without the commitment and the full-price bill.

“This is the first semester I haven’t been interning off campus,” Tso said. “As a campus ambassador for Rent The Runway, I finally get to convert my full-time Instagram addiction into actual work.”

Fashion is one of many things Tso is passionate about. The list includes exploring her city, trying new foods and experiencing new things, but above all, helping others. Her peers would say Tso is a stand-out personality because of her ability to make genuine connections with others and remaining so true to herself and her morals. She gives credit to her parents for her motivation.

“Above all, I have to say I owe everything to my parents,” Tso said. “I work hard, but that also means I’m terribly hard on myself and it’s always my parents who help me put everything into perspective.”

According to her father, Chung Tso, Gloria’s boundless curiosity is what makes her outstanding.

“[We taught her] not to always follow the crowd, be honest, caring and compassionate and not to be afraid of failure,” Chung said.

Madeline Bostic, a senior in sociology at Oklahoma State University describes in photographic detail the best traits of Gloria Tso. Bostic was Tso’s closest friend in high school and the two still remain in touch. To add to the list of characteristics and achievements, Bostic describes Tso as a devoted friend and reliable ally.

“When I talk to her it’s not the uber successful, multi-talented 21 year old, it’s just Gloria,” Bostic said. “She’s brilliant obviously, but not in a way that makes her unapproachable or intimidating. I think it’s because she really does everything for herself. To better herself that is, and not to add to a list of accomplishments or put her above others.”

Often times our society associates success with wealth and material belongings, however, Tso disagrees. The key to any level of success is the desire to be better. Not financially or socially, rather better mentally and morally. According to Tso, success doesn’t stem from wealth, but by focusing on passions and finding a way to channel those into a benefit for the greater good. She does not have a definitive plan for her future, however, her goal is to work as a preeminent journalist, both in broadcast and in print. If there were ever a high-school superlative for “Most Likely to Destroy the Patriarchy”, Gloria Tso would be the one.

“It’s hard for me to say where I want to be in five years simply because I have lots of aspirations and seemingly so little time to accomplish it all,” Tso said.   “I talk about bridging the cultural divide between East and West a lot, but I know that’s a lot easier said than done. I hope to make a tangible impact on that relationship in some way through my work as a journalist.”

Tso questions how her identity as an Asian-American journalist can help her fight for more diverse representation in the media and entertainment industries.

One of the most important lessons to learn from Tso is to live with no regrets and focus on what’s important. Focus on the present and appreciate the smaller things in life.

“I do subscribe to the belief that everything happens for a reason,” Tso said,  “and I have enough faith in what I’m doing right now to say that no matter where I would’ve gone, I would eventually find my way back to what I hope to achieve as a student right here at Columbia. I do think the path I would’ve taken to get here would be different – I certainly wouldn’t have been able to intern at CNN or work with the United Nations but perhaps I would be an anchor for a campus TV station. I wouldn’t have the chance to try some of the foods I’ve tried at restaurants here, but maybe I would be a better cook.”

Tso’s positive outlook on life is inspirational and Oklahoma is proud to have bred such a shining example of humility. She believes her local roots played a role in her outlook on life and others.

“Growing up liberal and Asian-American in Oklahoma wasn’t easy,” Tso said.  “But it challenged me to be able to communicate with those across the aisle, who harbored radically different political views and had very different upbringings. And so now that I’m on a super liberal campus in a liberal city, I find that I have a very different perspective of “the other side” compared to many of my classmates.”

Though Tso is kind and personable, she is forceful and unafraid to stand up for what she believes in. Growing up in Oklahoma taught her compassion and kept her mind open to opportunities. Above all, help others and possess the desire to be better; these are the keys to success.

 

Nora Carranco: The Perspective of an Ecuadorian-American Citizen

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Cynthia and Nora Carranco posing with American flags at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Tulsa, OK in 2010. Photo source: Nora Carranco

Nora Carranco is among the hundreds of thousands of children who were hoisted into the United States by their parents in their adolescent years. At the age of seven, Nora’s mother made the executive decision to move her and her sister to the U.S. in search of the abundance of opportunities and a better quality of life.

There are many challenges that come with moving to a different country, let alone moving with young children. Approximately 45 million of United States residents are immigrants and Nora is one voice among millions. Her perspective assists that narrative that people are people and race doesn’t decide worth or personality traits. Humans are more alike than they differ.

To move to a country without any prior knowledge and to be thrown into a society in which people of color are scrutinized every day, Nora Carranco proves resilience and great strength. The United States would not be the same cultural melting pot without brothers and sisters of color or different ethnic background. Carranco believes the United States has provided her with many opportunities she would not have had in her home country. This is what makes America so worthwhile. The reasons people move here aren’t to milk the government, but rather to provide their loved ones with opportunities and a life unmatched from any other country.

SS: When did you move to the United States and from where?

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Nora with sister Cynthia at the ages of seven and eight posing for a photo in their new bedroom. Photo source: Nora Carranco

NC: I moved to the U.S. when I was around 7 years old from Ecuador.

SS: What was the reason for the move?

NC: The reason was that my parents had gotten divorced and my mom met my stepfather. My mom realized that there would be better opportunities in the long run for my sister and me. So, she decided to move us here.

SS: Why come to the U.S. and not a bordering country like Argentina or Brazil?

NC: Well, for one, my stepdad is from the U.S. And two, even though we were a lot closer to Brazil or Argentina, the U.S. had a lot more opportunities and they had a lot higher rates of success because of how developed they are/were. I think at that time the U.S. was at a better standing economically than any other country in South America.

SS: There was obviously a language barrier moving from a Spanish speaking country to a majority English speaking country. How did you learn English when you moved? Did you learn it in school or have lessons?

NC: When we moved here we went to a school in Jenks and the teachers had my sister and me go to an English teaching center every day after school for a whole year. They gave us books to practice and slowly we learned English.

SS: Would you say that the transition was really difficult? When you finally went into the general school population, was it hard to transition with new peers?

NC: School wise, it wasn’t too bad. I mean, it was hard because we didn’t know English, but once I started picking up on more things it got better. I was able to make friends, but in general, it wasn’t that hard. Transitioning to the U.S. was hard because it was a totally different environment. I’ve never coped well with big changes or new places, it always takes me a little while to get used to it.

SS: Do you think your difficulty to cope with change started when you moved to the U.S.? Is it a pre-existing personality trait or is it the result of past events?

NC: I think I’ve always been avoidant of change, but it was emphasized when I was brought to a place so foreign to me. I think it could be relative to past events, but I feel like with the whole situation with my parents it was a difficult transition because my parents were having a hard time. So we had to transition a lot. I don’t think it’s just a personality trait.

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Nora with sister, Cynthia, and mother, Norita. Photo taken in Ecuador at their childhood home. Photo source: Nora Carranco

SS: What was life like in Ecuador before you moved if you remember?

NC: I don’t remember a lot of it because I was so little, but I think I was happy. I liked it. I was close to my family and hung out with my cousins a lot. We would hang out and my older cousin would teach us a lot of things. We lived in a small closed neighborhood in Ecuador. There were guards guarding the neighborhood because there’s more crime there. It’s more dangerous. I miss the food.

SS: When did you become a citizen? Can you take me through that process?

NC: I don’t remember exactly when it was. I just remember when my grandma moved after us, she became a citizen and there was a lot of paperwork she had to fill out. She studied for years for the citizenship test and she passed and there was a ceremony. For my sister and me, my mom had gotten married to my stepdad, so we didn’t have to go through the whole process. There was a ceremony and we were given our citizenship diploma, or whatever. I was fortunate that my family didn’t struggle as much as others because I know the process can be physically and financially draining.

SS: What is your quality of life now in comparison to then?

NC: I was too young to really recognize my quality of life back then. Looking back I made observations, but I wasn’t self-aware back then. Now I am more aware of things and social issues. I used to be a lot happier and now I struggle with that. It’s not a bad life. My parents help me out with school and I have a good relationship with my sister.  I have amazing friends and a cute dog named Ella. I feel like my quality of life has changed a lot.

SS: Do you feel like you’ve ever been discriminated against?

NC: Not really. I may have been behind closed doors, but fortunately not that I can recall.

SS: Given the small population of Latino Americans in the state of Oklahoma, at only eight percent, do you feel like it was more difficult to connect with your peers?

NC: It wasn’t hard. I was able to make friends, but I guess sometimes I miss being able to connect with someone outside of American people. But America has a lot of people from a lot of different cultures, so I like that.

SS: How do you celebrate your culture?

NC: I celebrate my culture by speaking Spanish, for sure. I celebrate it by telling people

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Nora Carranco, second from left, gathering with family members in an Oklahoma church in the late months of 2016. Photo source: Facebook/Nora Carranco

I’m from Ecuador every chance I get and by talking about my country. Trying to keep it alive. I cook traditional Ecuadorian dishes and travel back to visit my family when I can.

SS: What are some things you’re really passionate about?

NC: Dogs, 100 percent. I love spending time with my family. I’m passionate about becoming a nurse. I like to write my own stories, but I’ve been struggling with inspiration lately.

SS: Is there a specific demographic you want to help with nursing? I know some people who want to work in underserved or minority communities, is that something that you’re interested in or just nursing in general?

NC: After nursing school, the goal is to work at a hospital in Tulsa as a NICU nurse. Maybe I’ll eventually move on from that. I’m also interested in surgery, so a scrub nurse would be cool. Or a travel nurse.

SS: Would you say you’re passionate about multi-cultural issues in American Society?

NC: Yeah, absolutely. I try to keep up with it, but sometimes it’s hard. I just know I’m totally against the separation of families and the wall is a stupid idea.

SS: If you were to ever encounter someone who was blatantly discriminatory, how would you handle it?

NC: I’d try not to be disrespectful because it’s counterproductive. I’d have someone record it for my safety, but I would stand up for myself. If I don’t stand up for myself, it’s like letting them win and that allows them to do the same to someone else. I’d be respectful, but at the same time not allow them to disrespect me.

SS: What have been the biggest challenges in your life so far?

NC: The biggest challenge was learning English. Now I’m having a hard time staying motivated in school.

SS: Most people have life mottos and words to live by. Do you have anything?

NC: I live by the words of “Cavapoos are adorable and my dog is amazing.”

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Nora poses with dog, Ella, in Oklahoma City in August 2018. Photo source: Nora Carranco