Jennifer Rocha is a proud 2021 graduate of the University of California at San Diego, but it’s not only attaining the dream of earning her bachelor’s in sociology that she is so happy about. It’s the journey that led her there that taught her that hard work and perseverance would pay off. That journey started with her parents.
“As a high schooler, my parents told me that the only way I was going to be able to understand how important it was to pursue a higher education was to work as a migrant field worker,” Rocha wrote on the UC-San Diego Instagram page that features images of her wearing her cap, gown and sarape sash in the fields with her mother and father, who are originally from Michoacan, Mexico.
“My parents … were not fortunate enough to live their dreams of pursuing a higher education and obtaining the dream career they desired,” she wrote.
Rocha reminisced about what it was like when she first started working in the fields with her father. After a day at school and cross-country practice where she would “run miles and miles,” her dad would pick her up to work in the strawberry fields until 2-3 a.m. Then, she’d have to be up the next morning at 5 a.m. to catch the city bus to start all over again.
“I admired the workers because they kept working despite backaches,” Rocha wrote. “Nobody thinks about… what happens behind a vegetable you grab at the grocery store. But behind it is someone who breaks their backs every day working in the fields.”
If it wasn’t for her parents, Rocha isn’t sure who she would be today. Coming from a field worker background, she says, motivated her and taught her what a day of hard labor can do for a person’s spirit.
“Working in the fields builds and molds a different type of character,” she says. “A character that does not give up, and one with resilience and strength to withstand the hazards that come from that job.”