After four years of hard work and perseverance, first-generation college student Esther Landaverde will proudly take the stage at SF State’s 2018 graduation ceremony where she will receive her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies, with an emphasis in social justice and sustainability.
Landaverde was born and raised in Inglewood, California where she lived until she was thirteen years old. It was at that time when her family decided to moved north to San Jose, California. She has roots in both places and considers herself to be raised in both Southern and Northern California. Coming from a close knit Latino family consisting of fourteen brothers and sisters, it made sense for Landaverde to attend SF State. The location of the campus allowed her to pursue her education while still being close to her family.
From a young age, Landaverde always had the goal of pursuing a college education, especially because her parents were not lucky enough to have the same opportunity. Her mother emmigrated to the United States from Mexico in search of a better life when she was fifteen, and her father emmigrated from El Salvador when he was seventeen seeking political asylum. From a very early age, her parents always instilled in her the importance of education.
“A lot of people had to fight to keep me here, to get me here a lot of doors were broken down, a lot of barriers were broken down to have my presence here” said Landaverde. “As soon as I got accepted I knew I was going to come to a four-year institution, its been a rough road staying motivated.”
Despite Landaverde’s ability to complete her undergraduate education in only four years, she, like many other college students, faced challenges.
“I think the biggest hardship for me was internal,” said Landaverde.
Landaverde juggled being a full-time student, part-time employee and an internship all while being fully involved with taking care of the many members of her family. She expressed the stresses that came with meeting rent and still having to fulfill her duties of student, daughter, intern and employee. However, her positive attitude gave her the strength to rise above the stresses.
“It’s hard but at the same time you learn a lot about yourself about what your body needs to heal and the things you need to be a good student and a leader for everyone,” said Landaverde.
Landaverde’s resilience to push through no matter the situation has been ingrained in her from a very early age. Through her experiences, her passion for social justice and awareness of sustainability grew.
“I knew that I had a passion for fighting injustice and putting marginalized people in the center and helping them out and giving them a voice and making them aware for their own voices, teaching them and educating them of their own power,” said Landaverde.
Being a first-generation college student, Landaverde didn’t have many people to turn to when it came to receiving advice on how to maneuver college. She said that programs like the Educational Opportunity Program really helped her find her way through campus and made transitioning into college a lot easier.
“I would always meet with my EOP counselor,” said Landaverde. “I didn’t have anyone to ask advice, my mom didn’t even finish high school, I couldn’t ask her, ‘hey how do you write an email to my professor?’”
Landaverde says she is planning to continue her internship after graduation and begin her applications for law schools. She is hoping to be an environmental lawyer in the near future.
“Every day I wake up and I thank god for the gift of education because not a lot of people have it and even being in a four year institution too a lot of people take that for granted,” said Landaverde. “We are in four year institutions but we are challenging the status quo every day we are breaking barriers everyday, being a brown person of color and being a woman.”