Alfredo Figueroa ’18, Kruttschnitt Aspire Scholarship Program (KASP) Scholar

Alfredo Figueroa ’18, Kruttschnitt Aspire Scholarship Program (KASP) Scholar

October 8, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski


Started gangbanging when I was thirteen
Took 14 seconds of being for me to become a member of one of the worst gangs in San
Francisco, right in the Mission District
People have to watch out what kind of colors they wore in my neighborhood after that
And I stayed banging until I was seventeen Why gangs though? A lot of people would ask me like “Why you
gang banging Fredo? Why you doing all these bad things, man?” like “Why don’t you go to school, make your
parents proud or something?” And yeah, when you’re a kid, you want to be
a doctor or a lawyer or something, you want to like do things that make your parents proud
and all that. But I didn’t care, I didn’t care because I
was labeled a problem from the very beginning. One of the first times I remember this was
when I was in the first grade See, my parents didn’t want me to go to school
in our neighborhood because they knew they were bad
So they went ahead and faked their address So I would go to school in the suburbs
But for some reason the principal knew He knew we didn’t belong there
He would bring me into his office every week Every single week and he would grill me and
grill me, He would ask me, where do you really live? Tell me where you live, tell me the truth. Tell me where you live. He grilled me so much that I still remember
that address to this day. 502 Avila Row in San Mateo
It was really obvious to me that I wasn’t welcome
For some reason I didn’t belong there But it’s good though, because, like, when
they all rejected me My gang excepted me, right? My homies were there to accept me right? By the time I was seventeen I had two felonies
and three misdemeanors I spent over a year in juvie and dropped out
of high school Things were getting rough
Something had to change you know? I was sick and tired of being a mess up
I was sick and tired of seeing my parents cry
So I made a decision, (go bears) I joined the army and became an airborne ranger
I was determined to do something where I wasn’t going to be that cholo anymore
I wasn’t just going to be a messup I wanted something that gave me respect and
honor I ended up completing three tours, two in
Iraq and one in Afghanistan And I really thought that this was my path
That this was going to be my career Up until my third tour, where I was wounded
in combat I was blown up by an RPG while I was trying
to help some of my friends who had just gotten blown up themselves
I didn’t know this at the time, but that was the end of my military career
All I remember is, I kept begging the doctor, over and over again, send me back
I want to go back to Afghanistan I want to go back to my guys
They need me I need them
I bugged them so much that one day He had to honestly tell me that if
you can walk 20 miles with 100 pounds on your back
Then I’ll go ahead and send you back I couldn’t even do one mile
My arm and my legs were too messed up Honestly, I came back home lost and defeated
I didn’t know what to do Failed, army drop out
I started working for a year and a half, Paycheck to paycheck,
I could barely make ends meet Going into debt… This wasn’t the life I wanted
There had to be something more Something had to give
This wasn’t the life I envisioned myself in So I listened to my parents, and I enrolled
myself in Chabot community college in Hayward I was working full time and I was going to
school fulltime and it was hard
I had to work my butt off But I was determined to show everybody that
I wasn’t that cholo That I wasn’t that army drop out anymore
I worked so heard that in Spring 2015 I graduated with honors
I ended up transferring with a 4.0 to the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley
And god was I happy it was proof
proof that I wasn’t a mess up But I instantly started to think
How am I going to pay for this? Thankfully I was a CAA Scholarship
And when I won this scholarship I didn’t just win money
I won a family too See, going into my third semester here,
I had an incident with my sister Now, she’s a beautiful special needs woman
And her condition worsened And my family and I had no idea how to handle
this We really didn’t know how to approach it
We tried our best to keep things under control But things got so bad that I started to fall
behind in my classes I didn’t know what to do
And honestly if it weren’t for the help That Valesca, Han, and Ashley gave me
I wouldn’t be here today, I would have dropped out
Throughout my speech you’ve seen the different identities
that I have the different ways I reacted to try to fit into society
and I’m not alone in this journey there’s so many different kids
Trying to find an identity in my neighborhood In many different neighborhoods
Yet, for some reasons, they are undervalued, criminalized and forgotten
But I want to change that through a career in education policy
I want to give these kids a chance to find their identity on their own terms,
I want to give them the support and resources they deserve
When I was interviewed for this scholarship I was asked why I thought I deserved the money
And I told them I don’t – I don’t deserve this money
My community deserves this money Everybody who sacrificed something for me
to be here deserves this money So don’t see your donation as simply giving
money See it as an investment in me, an investment
in my community Because if I do well, my community does well
And if all our communities do well, then we all do better,
Thank you