By Amy Fredette
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Celestino Fernandez, executive vice president and provost of the New Campus, spoke about the importance of education last night at a Minorities in Agricultural, Natural Resources and Related Sciences meeting.
"Education is the avenue to your success," Fernandez said. "I don't mean monetary. It's about the quality of life that you experience."
"(At the UA), you have an environment and an opportunity to make something of your life," Fernandez said.
Fernandez, said that if his family had remained in Mexico, he probably would not have made it past the sixth grade.
Fernandez graduated from Stanford University with a master's and doctorate in sociology, and has taught at the University of Arizona since 1976.
The son of a migrant farm worker, Fernandez said that his father had travelled to the United States numerous times during the 40s and 50s to work as a farmer and a cook.
"Mexicans generally and historically don't flee Mexico for political or personal persecution," Fernandez said. "They come to work."
Fernandez said that his father had every intention of going back to Mexico to establish his family, but in 1957 the Fernandez' moved to Santa Rosa, Calif.
Upon entering the United States, Fernandez said that he experienced "culture shock" when he drank his first glass of cold, homogenized milk and bit into his first hamburger.
Used to an environment with no running hot water or dependable electricity, Fernandez said that his mother would heat water and cook dinner over an open fire. Milk was fresh-squeezed right out of the cow.
Fernandez began working full time in Santa Rosa at an apple orchard when he was nine years old.
Fernandez described problems he faced with discrimination as a child and later as a sociology professor at the UA.
"It's not my problem," Fernandez said. "It's their problem and they're going to have to deal with it, because I'm not going away. And I hope you're not going away."
MANNRS, which established its chapter at the UA in 1993, has about 20 members. The focus of the group is to ensure academic success for all students and to promote minority involvement in the field of agricultural sciences.
Felipe Espino, an general agriculture junior and vice president of MANNRS, said that he discovered success within the group.
"It's for people who are having a difficult time like I was two years ago," Espino said. Faced with graduation in May 1996, Espino said MANNRS taught him that he wasn't alone.
"I started realizing that I'd be graduating soon and wondering what I'd be doing with my degree." (Espino also said that he) "should start exploring his options now instead of next year when everybody's doing it."
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