By: Josiah Lara
Coming from a family of fifteen, I statistically should not be graduating from college—let alone graduating within four years with two Bachelor of Arts degrees. Research not only predicts that the more siblings one has, the less education they will complete, but also low income and first generation students—two other classifications I fall into—will graduate with lower success rates. However, because of the wonderful family that I have, I was able to overcome all the challenges that could have prevented me from earning my degrees. This is why I believe that the Lara family should be recognized for the Family of the Year Award.
As the first person in my family to go straight to a four-year university and live on campus, I was unaware of some of the challenges that would soon be heading my way. However, whenever life got me down or I needed someone to talk to, my family was there. If I needed to blow off some steam and just do something adventurous, my family was there. Whenever I needed help with something, I knew I could always count on my family to support me.
I was blessed to have my dad, Larry, as a stay-at-home parent for the first 18 years of my life. I had an amazing childhood of staying home. I would climb onto my dad’s lap while watching The Magic School Bus, and then ask him science questions after each episode, wondering if I was going to go on field trips like the ones in the show when I went to school. The years that I was able to spend every day with my dad were incredible: whenever I needed help with a school project, another chaperone was needed for an event, or an errand done for me, dad was there and I knew I could always count on him. Unfortunately, with the economy the way it has been, my dad has had to go work in North Dakota to help out with the finances. Dad works 12-hour days, seven days a week, for six weeks straight, with a two-week interval to come home between each six-week shift. Dad may only be home for about 14 weeks a year, but I know he is always there to help. For example, spring semester of my junior year, I called my dad at 10:00pm to talk about my break-up with my girlfriend; he answered the phone on the second ring and we proceeded to talk for the next hour and a half. Later, I found out that my dad was asleep when I called and that he had just gotten off a 14-hour shift. Dad could have easily not answered the phone when I called, in order to rest after such a long day’s work. As the kind and loving father that he is, he took the call and never once complained about being tired. My dad is my safety net: no matter what happens in life and no matter how far away he is, I know he will always be there for me when I fall.
There is the popular saying, “behind every great man, there is a great woman.” Well, in my case, it’s two women, my older sisters, Christy and Risa. I cannot count how many times these two have come to my rescue and have proofread a paper for me, allowed me to practice presentations in front of them, or simply stayed on the phone for hours to talk about all of life’s happenings. This past semester was one of the roughest moments of my life. Not only was I enrolled in my history thesis class, but I was also involved in numerous things on campus. The week before my thesis was due, my life started to fall apart and I did not know how to handle the upset. The Monday before my thesis was due I had written next to nothing; however, with the help of my sisters, I was able to walk through the muck and turn in one of the greatest accomplishments of my academic career. Writing twenty-four pages on contradictory slave law is hard, but reading twenty-four pages about the topic when you have zero interest is even harder, yet that is exactly what Risa did. Page by page she read my paper, and page by page she crossed out words, circled mistakes and wrote suggestions. After an hour of focusing on my thesis, she turned to me with dizzy eyes and told me that she had learned more about slave law than she ever thought she would. She talked me though her edits, told me I had a solid research paper, and gave me a, “go get ‘em,” as I walked out her door. It was these final remarks that I held onto as I went about my revisions and confidently handed the paper into my professor.
Now, my family is not the most forward when it comes to expressing our emotions, but I know that when disaster strikes, they will be the first ones to offer me a shoulder to cry on, arms to hold me, or a safe haven to escape to. When the last stone of my foundation was taken away from underneath me, I was at a loss of what to do. I was scared, I was alone, and I was ashamed of what I had done. Despite all the emotional barriers that I had built up, I knew that I could rely on my family—particularly Christy. So, in the middle of the night, Christy got in the car, drove into town, picked me up, and then drove me back out to the house, where I was able to be with the people I love the most. The following morning, I was embarrassed as can be: it was completely out of character for me to be so vulnerable. However, being the kind and amazing soul that is my sister, she talked me through the events, offered her advice and gave me zero judgment. Christy and Risa have been two of my biggest mentors throughout my college career. From proofreading papers to offering life advice, these two women have pushed me to new heights and are armed-at-the-ready with the glue when I fall. I would not be the man I am today without them.
Life is too short to be serious the whole time—one of the most important life lessons I have learned from my older brothers: Eric, Jimmy and Jed. While it is easy to get bogged down with all the stress of college, my brothers have shown me that it’s necessary to take some time and laugh away all of life’s worries. Although my brothers might refute the claim that they have been instrumental during my time at Gonzaga, they have helped me alleviate some of the tension that can build up over a college career. Whether it is a dinner with trivia, an all-out Nerf gun war, or adventures out on the town, my brothers never disappoint at making sure that I am making the most out of my time as a college student.
Being a middle child has been stigmatized as being the worst type of sibling—I would say it’s the best type. As a middle child, I am able to learn from my older siblings, while at the same time I get to inspire and be inspired by my younger siblings. All seven of them. One of the happiest feelings in the world is walking back into my parents’ house and having my little sisters run into the kitchen and give me a “welcome home” hug or my brothers giving me a soft “welcome back” jab to the shoulder. It is because of these kids that I try my best in college. It is because of Jacob, Jesse, Jethro, Jared, Jericho, Anna, and Savvy that I try to be the best I can be. Almost every weekend that I go out to the house, one of them asks to spend the night at my apartment on campus—and almost every weekend, one of them comes back with me. Whether we spend our time playing ping-pong in the Kennedy common room, frisbee on Foley Lawn, or adventuring over to the Bulldog to take a picture, I can see them falling in love with Gonzaga’s campus. My parents never thought that they would have one of their children attend this university, but I want to show my siblings that anything can become a reality. When I was ten years old, my sister and I drove by the Kennedy Apartments, and I told her that one day I would be living in those apartments—11 years later I was moving my stuff into Room 520. I want each of them to dream as big as they can and I want to help them achieve those dreams. Even if they do not recognize it now, every time they stay with me on campus and every picture they take on Spike, I am showing them that anything is possible.
Words fail to describe how much my mom, Cecilia, has played a role in my life. The encouragement and support that she has shown me through the years have given me the confidence and determination to pursue my goals and make them my reality. When my mom found out that I was going to attend Gonzaga, she immediately went to the store to buy a Gonzaga basketball and spent the next day trying to find bulldog shaped cookie-cutters so she could take bulldog cookies into her office the next day. Fast forward four years, and my mom is still seeking out every opportunity to mention that I attend Gonzaga. Whenever I talk with my mom about the struggles of a class or the stress of an upcoming exam, she is always there to restore my faith in myself and motivate me to give it my all. From surprising me with groceries when she knows I am low on food, to hour-long conversations on the phone, to taking time off of work to support me at events, my mom will always be there to cheer for me.
My family is the rock which upon I build. No matter how deep the waters get, I know that when the tide falls, my family will be standing steadfast. My parents have done an amazing job creating a strong sense of love among me and my siblings, and to them I am eternally grateful. I am always smiling ear to ear when I get a chance to share how amazing my family is and I hope that you are able to see a small glimpse of how much they have impacted my life. It is because I have their unconditional support that I am confident in my pursuit for a Juris Doctorate and that I can tackle anything life throws at me.