By Tareen Haque:
Throughout January, I took my first steps as the 2019 CUNY Youth Ambassador by researching and reading about the position and responsibilities. I was able to learn more about the Sustainable Development Goals as well as the previous GEM Youth Reports. As I was reading the reports, I was amazed at everything. Throughout my entire life, education was always a guarantee for me. I grew up knowing that not getting a bachelor’s degree was not an option, because my parents taught me the value of education since I was young. As the child of two immigrants who didn’t have a college degree, I’ve seen my parents continuously struggle to make ends meet through various jobs. My mother constantly taught me that getting a job with a bachelor’s degree was necessary to make sure I was financially stable. I never challenged this notion because I knew deep down that my mother truly didn’t want me to live like her and my father. Yet as I grew up, I’ve heard numerous jokes about people wanting to drop out of school because of the workload. During a conversation with my mother, I repeated the joke to her, only to see that my mother had given me a stern look. As she angrily told me about her hardships throughout her life without an education, it dawned on me that many of the people in my school took the right to an education for granted. They constantly complained of the stress and how boring they found the classes, but never seemed to appreciate the fact that they even had the opportunity to learn. While reading the GEM reports, I realized that I too was taking my education for granted. I also became overwhelmed with the stress and began complaining of all the work I was getting. Learning of the #FeesMustFall protests in South Africa reminded me of how lucky I was to even be attending a college, nonetheless for free. I never understood how fortunate I was to even have the opportunity to learn about the world. I hope that through my role as the CUNY Youth Ambassador and my signature project, I can bring people to appreciate education again, even if education is not presented in the typical humanities or STEM fields.